Training triggers: A narrative analysis of situations perceived as retraumatizing during MSW training (and some things I’m learning about QR codes!)

In a couple of weeks I will be presenting a poster on some of my dissertation study findings at the 9th International Conference on Social Work in Health and Mental Health, York, UK.

I’m very excited about presenting some of my research and about learning from colleagues from around the world! I’ve also been learning some new things about technology as I prepare my poster for presentation. I decided to include a QR code (AKA “blob code”) on my poster that would allow folks to easily access a pdf version of it and also provide them an opportunity to check out the other posts and resources on this blog.

Using the QR code generator so far has been super easy. Figuring out how to create a code for a link that doesn’t yet exist has been a bit tricky, however. First I tried adding a pdf copy of the poster to the Resources page and then updating the file, but that didn’t work. Then I tried to link the QR code to the url for this blog post. The problem with this solution was that I also tried to schedule release of the post for the day of the conference. Doing it that way, however, did not provide me with a usable link. So in the end, I decided to make a copy of the poster without the QR code and just put the QR code on the actual poster that I will present.

Whew! There is likely an easier way. But this solution will suffice for now.

So, without further adieu, here is a copy of the Training Triggers poster without the QR code. I’ll update this post with a copy of the QR code after I publish the post and get a working url.

Edit* And below is a copy of the QR code for those interested. I see more experimenting with QR codes in my future…

Carello UK Poster code


Too hot, too cold, or just right? Strategies for creating a class climate that fosters growth

Does it seem like there’s been a heat wave in your classes lately, and you and your students are mad at or complaining about each other? Or perhaps there’s been a bit of a cold snap, and you and your students haven’t been as engaged in your classes as you’d like? Maybe temperatures have been swinging back and forth between both extremes? Or maybe your classes have been pretty temperate, and you’re interested in learning some new strategies for maintaining an optimal class climate?

Trauma-informed teaching and learning is about improving classroom environments. I invite you to watch the video presentation on class climate I created to help educators a) better understand the relationship between emotion regulation and learning; b) recognize signs of hostile or barren climate (i.e. relationship problems); and c) identify strategies for improving (or maintaining) class climate (i.e. relationship with students).

The video runs just a few minutes over an hour. In the description on YouTube I’ve included time stamps for the beginning of each section of the video in case you care to return to a specific part of it.

Before or after watching the video, you may be interested in using the class climate self assessment tool to help you identify some possible climate problems in your traditional and/or virtual classes. A pdf of the presentation slides is also available and lists references.

I’d love to hear about additional strategies you’ve tried and found successful!

TITL Self-Assessment Tools

On the Resources page I’ve posted two new trauma-informed teaching and learning tools. The first is a set of questions for educators who are interested in making their traditional and virtual classrooms more trauma-informed. The second is a set of questions for administrators who are interested in developing a trauma-informed program or department.

These tools are designed to help educators assess the extent to which their current policies, pedagogy, and curriculum are congruent with trauma-informed teaching and learning principles. The questions can be used to provide a current snapshot and to track progress over time.

A Kahoot! to help teach and test Trauma & TIC Basics

A while back, I created a Kahoot! on Trauma and TIC Basics to help students and trainees define and differentiate some core trauma and trauma-informed care (TIC) concepts. For those unfamiliar with Kahoot!, it’s a game-based learning platform that is accessed on the web via computer, tablet, or smartphone.

In both course and training settings, I use the Trauma and TIC Basics Kahoot! as a kind of pre- and post-test to help students/participants both learn the terms and also assess their learning. The Kahoot! also informs my teaching. I don’t expect every learner will answer every question correctly on the post-test. That has never happened, in fact. However, low question scores let me know which concepts I need to revisit.

I was a bit worried at first that adult learners would object to using a game platform; however, so far every audience I’ve tried it with has responded enthusiastically. I’ve used it successfully in both individual and team format. Team format is helpful when some learners don’t have access to a device or would have difficulty using it for this purpose.

I hope you, too, will find this Kahoot! useful and fun. If you do try it out, I’d love  feedback. In particular I’m curious about the following:

  • In what setting did you use it? (e.g. personal use, MSW course, counselor training, educator training)
  • How’d it go?
  • Are there other terms you’d like to see included?
  • Would you be interested in a post (maybe a video?) in which I explain the terms/answers?

And, of course, I’d be interested to hear other thoughts you’d be willing to share.


Principles for Trauma-Informed Teaching and Learning

A trauma-informed approach to college teaching and learning refers to adopting a set of trauma-informed principles to inform educational policies and procedures. The principles must be specific enough to provide a useful framework but general enough to be adapted for and operationalized within a variety of settings.

The original trauma-informed principles (safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment) were developed by Roger Fallot and Maxine Harris, the pioneers of trauma-informed care. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) adapted the principles and added a sixth (cultural, historical, and gender issues).

I have further adapted the principles for use in college and university settings. The principles below can be operationalized at the classroom level as well as the department, program, school, or system levels. When I do trainings, I collaborate with educators to customize and operationalize the principles for their classroom, department, or program. A pdf version of these principles, which I am referring to as TITL General Principles, is also linked here and listed on the blog’s Resources page.


Efforts are made to create an atmosphere that is respectful of the need for safety, respect, and acceptance for all students, faculty, and staff in both individual and group interpersonal interactions, including feeling safe to make and learn from mistakes.


Trust and transparency are enhanced by making expectations clear, ensuring consistency in practice, maintaining appropriate boundaries, and minimizing disappointment.


Individuals and groups are connected with appropriate peer and professional resources to help them succeed academically, personally, and professionally.


Opportunities exist to provide input, share power, and make decisions. Individuals and groups act as allies rather than as adversaries to reach common goals. 


Individuals and groups are empowered to make choices and to develop confidence and competence.


Individuals and groups strive to be responsive to historical, cultural, and gender issues in order to respect one another’s diverse experiences and identities.


Strengths and resilience are emphasized over deficiencies and pathology. Feedback is provided to convey optimism and to facilitate growth and change.

A pdf version of Examples of TITL Principles in College Classrooms that I have customized for classroom use is also also linked here and available on the blog’s Resources page. This version provides examples of what each principle might look like in seated or virtual course settings.

For those interested in an explanation of why I adapted the principles in this way, I wrote a rationale as part of my comprehensive exams that is linked here and posted on the University at Buffalo School of Social Work website. My thinking has developed since then, and I have been tweaking things a bit, but the document provides more detailed reasoning. References for sources I consulted to help develop these principles are posted below.

I would love to hear about other policies and practices folks are using in their classrooms or in their departments or schools that are congruent with trauma-informed principles!

(This post was updated on 1.18.2021)


Carello, J., & Butler, L. D. (2015). Practicing what we teach: Trauma-informed educational practice. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 35(3), 262-278.

Cole, S.F., Eisner, A., Gregory, M., & Ristuccia, J. (2013). Helping traumatized children learn: Creating and advocating for trauma-sensitive schools. Massachusetts Advocates for Children Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative. Retrieved from

Elliot, D.M., Bjelac, P., Fallot, R.D., Markoff, L.S., & Reed, B.G. (2005). Trauma-informed or trauma-denied: Principles and implementation of trauma-informed services for women. Journal of Community Psychology, 33(4), 461–477.

Fallot, R.D., & Harris,M. (2006). Trauma-informed services: A self-assessment and planning protocol. Washington, DC: Community Connections. Retrieved from

St. Andrews, A. (2013). Trauma and resilience: An adolescent provider toolkit. San Francisco, CA: Adolescent Health Working Group. Retrieved from 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2014). SAMHSA’s concept of trauma and guidance for a trauma-informed approach. Rockville, MD: Author. Retrieved from 


What is trauma-informed teaching and learning?

What is trauma-informed teaching and learning? Trauma-Informed Teaching and Learning (TITL) is a term I coined to refer to a trauma-informed approach to college curriculum delivery. To become trauma-informed in the context of college teaching and learning means to understand the role that violence and victimization have played in the lives of students and educators, […]