We offer a unique perspective on trauma-informed (TI) training and implementation. We are, as far as we can find, the first and perhaps only TI educator training partnership consisting of a mental health practitioner and an educator, both of whom also teach in a university setting. Our multidisciplinary partnership is an important distinction. We’ve committed ourselves to learning about the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that inform each of our professions. We firmly believe that in order for us to transform schools in ways that mitigate the enduring effects of chronic stress and trauma impacting students, both disciplines and expertise must work in tandem not only in providing training, but in designing TI educational training competencies for teaching professionals.
Anna Berardi, Ph.D., is the founder and director of the Trauma Response Institute, and a tenured professor of marriage and family therapy in the Graduate School of Counseling at George Fox University—Portland, Oregon. Anna began her work as a social worker, and is a licensed and practicing psychotherapist, utilizing best-practice trauma-informed approaches such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), and Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) to facilitate healing processes for individuals and couples impacted by the lingering effects of trauma. For the past 25 years she has advocated for the needs of marginalized and under-served populations through the training of mental health professionals, including school counselors and school psychologists, serving various communities in the Pacific Northwest. Anna’s scholarly publications and conference presentations primarily focus on clinical supervision and training, social justice advocacy, and trauma-informed care.
Viewing trauma-informed care as social justice in action, Anna also addresses how issues of privilege and marginalization exacerbate individual and community vulnerabilities in the aftermath of stress and trauma. Her advocacy and trauma-response work includes service to local, national, and international communities. This includes providing direct social services, supervising interns working in these communities, mentoring graduate thesis projects focusing on providing trauma-informed care within schools, and training educators in TI school practices.
Anna created one of the first university-based trauma-informed graduate certification programs for education, mental health, and ministerial professionals. Together with her colleague, Dr. Brenda Morton, she co-created and facilitates the Trauma-Informed School Initiative dedicated to training and supporting school personnel implementing trauma-informed school practices. This collaboration with Brenda, a teacher educator, and school districts, exemplifies Anna’s view that trauma response requires multidisciplinary collaboration with communities in need of resources.
Brenda Morton, EdD., is a tenured Associate Professor in the School of Education at George Fox University. She taught middle and high school at both public and private schools in Oregon and is a licensed administrator. In 2009, Brenda joined the faculty at George Fox University School of Education, where she works in teacher preparation with undergraduate and graduate students. Early on in her career, Brenda recognized the needs of at-risk youth and began to focus on this specific group of vulnerable learners. In 2010, Brenda and her family became a foster family to a sibling group of four. The challenges and joys of foster parenting led her to focus her dissertation on academic outcomes of foster youth. Her dissertation was an extension of her love for at-risk youth and deep desire to understand, connect, and create a path forward. To that end, she earned certification as a National Dropout Prevention Specialist and a post-doctoral certification in Trauma Response.
Brenda is a Fulbright Scholar. She was awarded a teaching and research Fulbright grant to teach trauma-informed practices to undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Tartu, in Tartu, Estonia. She also provided professional development training for school social workers and school psychologists at an educational service center in Tartu. Since the completion of the Fulbright in 2018, she continues to return to Estonia to train general and special education teachers, school psychologists, social workers, and faculty.
Anna and Brenda co-created a trauma-informed certification program for teachers, administrators, and schools. Together, they work with schools to train educators in Trauma-Informed School Practices (TISP) using an integrated social-behavioral health and educational framework informing their Trauma-Informed School Practices Tri-Phasic Model. While they have no intention of turning educators into mental health providers, they do advocate that educators develop trauma-informed educational competencies as part of their basic training—in essence, becoming trauma-response experts. Trauma-informed educator competencies are crucial for creating educational systems, from school culture to classroom management, that work for all students, not just those impacted by unmitigated stress and trauma. Trauma-informed knowledge, skills, and dispositions allow educators to create strategies, teaching methods, a classroom climate, and a school culture where all students feel safe and secure. Only then can they begin to grow and develop academically and socially.