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Module 1: Understanding the Impact of Trauma

Please click on the Issue Brief to learn more about the impact of trauma. Then watch the Video Interviews to hear from individuals who provide background and share lessons learned. For a comprehensive list of links to additional resources and materials, click on Resources on the bottom of the page.

Introductory Video to Module 1

Impact on the Brain.

Children experience the impacts of traumatic stress not only emotionally but also through physical changes in the brain architecture. These changes significantly influence child development. This video provides information on the impacts of trauma on the developing brain, why these impacts matter, and how to use the information to develop programs to help children who have experienced trauma.

Historical and Intergenerational Trauma.

Trauma can be experienced by entire groups such as American Indian, Alaska Native, and African American communities, that have experienced systematic abuse and injustices, resulting in the experience of historical trauma spanning several generations. In addition, other communities may still carry the scars of the oppression perpetrated against their forbears. Trauma is also often passed down from generation to generation. Parents with unaddressed trauma often transmit the symptoms of their trauma—such as maladaptive coping styles, lack of trust, and difficulty building healthy relationships—to their children. In this video, providers and policymakers primarily from Alaska and Montana discuss their experiences working with families and communities affected by historical or intergenerational trauma.

Importance of Culture.

Culture is central to our identity. It provides us with a lens through which we relate to others, make sense of events, and cope. Similarly, culture plays an integral role in how we respond to trauma and treatment. Recognizing an individual’s culture is essential when supporting individuals with a history of trauma. Sensitivity to culture must be implicit in any organizational program and policy decision that affect families that have experienced trauma. At times, that sensitivity includes adaptations to evidence-based treatments, modifications in the organization’s physical environment, or assurance of appropriate language access. This video provides in-depth perspectives on the importance of culture as it relates to trauma.

Screening and Assessment.

Consistent and routine screenings identify individuals who have experienced trauma. If an individual screens positive for trauma exposure, a comprehensive assessment is needed to understand trauma’s impact on the child and family and to determine treatment and resources that are appropriate to meet the child and family’s needs. This video highlights the need for trauma screening and assessment and provides examples of how to use them in the field. For a comprehensive list of screening and assessment tools, visit the National Child Traumatic Stress NetworkWeb site.

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