Advantages of a Trauma and Resilience Degree

Andrew C. McMillan
Andrew C. McMillan
High school principal; Ed.D. in Educational Administration
Teacher consoling a crying student in art class.

Students sitting in classrooms all over the world come from varying backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, ethnicities, genders, and cultures. Although different, these students in 2021 have already faced, or will face, significant challenges during their educational journey. For some, the COVID-19 pandemic is their first real experience with a traumatic or life-changing event. For others however, traumatic experiences have already been a part of their fabric based on their upbringing, location, or homelife.

Because of the potentially long-lasting negative impacts of trauma on physical and mental health, ways to address students’ history of trauma are drawing more and more attention from educational leaders and institutions.

What is a Trauma and Resilience Degree?

Because of the uptick in student traumatic experiences, colleges and universities’ teacher preparation programs are offering new training in trauma and resilience. By definition, resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, or toughness. Teacher educational programs have become quick to add new training because students who have experienced trauma can and are benefitting from emerging best practices in trauma-informed care.

Recently, colleges and universities have created different degree programs for trauma and resilience and trauma-informed care. For some postsecondary programs, this can be done through a master’s-level program or an add-on certification program. These programs in trauma-informed teaching and education can help prepare educators for what has become a central concern and focus for schools and communities. Students need effective responses to their trauma and need ways to build resilience and capacity to thrive in the classroom. Schools and/or districts with trained teachers in trauma and resiliency are more effective, and communities are better equipped to deal with the challenges being faced today.

Benefits of a Trauma and Resilience Degree

Benefits of a trauma and resilience degree are prevalent for both students and teachers. In studies conducted, most recently by the CDC, 64% of children have experienced adverse childhood experiences—commonly referred to as ACEs. These experiences can include abuse, neglect, and challenging household circumstances like military deployment, divorce, and others.

Unfortunately, children facing more ACEs than others are more likely to be labeled with behavioral problems and often develop anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. As students experience trauma, their brain functions are altered. Teachers are not equipped in standard teacher education programs to appropriately handle, recognize, and help students overcome these obstacles.

The growing field of trauma-informed and resilient education recognizes that children who experience trauma need school to be a safe place, one filled with love and trust. A trauma and resilience degree can provide educators with the tools to face these challenges both in and out of the classroom setting. As a trauma-informed educator myself, my entire pedagogical and philosophical approach to education changed as I was awakened to the real need that exists with students coming from broken homes, neglectful and abusive relationships, and so many other adverse life experiences that I did not personally experience.

Career Opportunities

With any add-on degree or certification, there comes the opportunity to advance in the field of education or work with students in different avenues. At all levels, schools are realizing the importance and benefits of trauma-informed teaching and leadership programs. For those with advanced degrees in trauma and resilience, opportunities exist outside of the traditional classroom setting.

First, schools can utilize a trauma-informed coach, one who works collaboratively with schools throughout districts to implement comprehensive trauma-informed approaches in schools, implement and facilitate professional development that supports trauma-sensitive practices, and provide coaching to teachers, administrators, and other staff that encourages a shift in the mindset regarding trauma.

Additionally, school counseling opportunities can arise from being trauma and resilience-trained, allowing staff the ability to work with small groups of students, providing education on specific trauma and/or topics like bullying, drug abuse, and even career planning. From the community perspective, trauma-informed-trained employees can provide valuable and vital social work and care coordinator opportunities, where large scale change can impact the communities surrounding local schools, thus providing wholesale opportunities for societal change with our communities and neighborhoods.

Additional Advantages

In addition to the multiple career paths and professional opportunities available to teachers trained in trauma and resilience, there are personal advantages to this type of training as well. As educators, we have faced trauma continuing to provide education during a global pandemic. Whether it has been virtual instruction, hybrid, or face-to-face, educators across the world have continued to deliver expert instruction in the midst of epic challenges. As we face trauma and struggle with resiliency ourselves, burnout and teacher trauma are real factors, and when combined with elevated stress levels, feelings of inadequacy, and teacher attrition, teachers need coping strategies too. Coursework and experiences in trauma and resilience help teachers strengthen their own ability to identify and adapt to their own trauma, whether it be direct or secondary, and, in turn, build our resilience through mindfulness and self-care.

As an educational community, we must recognize and address the increasingly common rate of trauma our students experience, and understand the long-term negative consequences that are a serious educational crisis. Early adverse life experiences in children have a direct impact on their learning and can lead to unhealthy coping behaviors and/or depression, anxiety, and other challenges. By adopting and being trained in trauma and resilience, educators can work together to mitigate these risks, and improve educational outcomes for children and even adults who have experienced trauma. Through the work of educators trained in trauma and resilience degree programs, we are slowly emerging with better plans, strategies, and guides on how to provide better education for our students.

Are you interested in exploring a Trauma and Resilience program? Explore our available programs to get started today!

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