Educator Howard Stevenson, PhD, will present one of the conference’s keynote sessions.
Childhood trauma can drastically impact development, physical health and emotional well-being, research shows. In addition, a strong relationship exists between trauma in childhood and a host of adult health problems, including cardiac disease, obesity, diabetes and depression.
To address this national epidemic, which impacts Philadelphians at a higher rate, the University will host the second annual Philadelphia Trauma Training Conference, “Preventing Childhood Trauma and Its Impact Across the Lifespan: An Interprofessional Agenda for Providers, Advocates, Policy Makers and Community Members,” from July 23-25. Leading experts, including faculty members, will present on a broad array of topics critically important to advancing the trauma-informed movement, said Jeanne Felter, PhD, LPC, director of the Community and Trauma Counseling (CTC) program at Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University).
“The University’s CTC program has a rich opportunity to play a critical role in moving Philadelphia toward its goal of becoming trauma-informed,” Dr. Felter said. “It’s among the only clinical graduate programs nationally that offers a fully integrated clinical trauma curriculum. In collaboration with important regional partners, Jefferson is poised to support the development of a healthy, vibrant, trauma-informed workforce in Philadelphia and beyond.”
The three-day meeting will attract an international audience of 500 attendees from across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, said Dr. Felter, the Zeldin Family Foundation Term Chair. “Our numbers and reach far exceeded our expectations. We’re so encouraged about how our expertise and focus resonate with a growing community across systems and sectors.”
Benefitting the many K-12 educators attending the conference, the program will feature several sessions focused on developing tangible skills that educators and school personnel can immediately employ in their classrooms and schools to support trauma-impacted children. The meeting also will offer a number of talks designed specifically to enhance the knowledge and skills of professionals and paraprofessionals in the justice system, law enforcement, health and behavioral health. And new this year, the University added a community track to inspire and train individuals and groups who don’t formally belong to the human service workforce but are invested in creating safe and healing families and communities.
Dr. Felter said she’s particularly excited about topics that will draw individuals from across disciplines and sectors, including trauma-informed supervision, self-care and vicarious trauma, as well as the keynote speakers, filmmaker and author Lee Mun Wah and educator Howard Stevenson, PhD. Both speakers will encourage participants to reflect upon and engage with each other around diversity, cultural humility and racial/cultural trauma in order to deepen sensitivities and expand capacity to form and nurture safe, healing relationships.
Filmmaker and author Lee Mun Wah will discuss “What Stands Between Us” in his keynote.
“I am hoping to propose that a key aspect in all types of trauma is the recognition or acknowledgment of the historical experiences surrounding tragic events,” said Dr. Stevenson, the Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education and professor of Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania. “The denial of these experiences by way of willful or unconscious decision-making or out of fearful and threatening emotions, while expected, has negative consequences for healing from those traumas.”
He said therapists and activists acting on behalf of children, families and individuals suffering from unanticipated dehumanizations are ethically compelled to help them toward emotional well-being.
“Racial politics and the politics of hostilities and violence toward children, families and individuals who are different has spiked and has led to traumatic reactions and health detriments associated with clinical traumas not unrelated to different forms of interpersonal abuse and violence that therapists treat daily,” Dr. Stevenson noted. “These hostilities are most problematic when they are face to face and unpredictable and when we are not prepared. Forgetting and denying our national history and legacy of racial and colonial dehumanization would represent a retraumatization that requires interventions that respond to the in-the-moment rejections of difference.”
The more therapists and activists understand racial literacy approaches to problem-solving face-to-face racial conflicts, the better they can sort the lifespan and intergenerational healing of historically dehumanized and disenfranchised communities, he said.
In Wah’s talk, “What Stands Between Us,” attendees will learn about the impact and intent of their communication; ways to respond compassionately and openly about diversity issues; how to listen mindfully and with awareness; how personal stories can affect perceptions and attitudes; ways to create a sense of community through dialogue and stories; how to work with conflict and hurt when diversity issues are involved; and ways to mindfully observe what’s being said and what isn’t.
Along with putting together a comprehensive panel of speakers, the planning team also recognized that a conference like this can place an emotional toll on attendees.
“Though great care has been taken to encourage safety and sessions have been designed to minimize emotionally reactivity, case studies and examples of childhood trauma can draw out difficult feelings,” Dr. Felter said. “We will be encouraging all participants to create a safety plan, and we will have self-care rooms set up during breaks. These quiet spaces away from noise and crowds will feature opportunities for art making and coloring mandalas and movement opportunities like walking and yoga to help attendees feel grounded and relaxed.”
Preventing Childhood Trauma and Its Impact Across the Lifespan: An Interprofessional Agenda for Providers, Advocates, Policy Makers and Community Members is presented by Jefferson’s Community and Trauma Counseling program in association with the Jefferson College of Population Health, Children’s Crisis Treatment Center, Lakeside Global Institute, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, The University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education and Philadelphia DBHIDS.