From July 18 to 21, professionals in mental health care, childhood education, medicine and juvenile justice gathered at Philadelphia University for The Greater Philadelphia Trauma Training Conference.
According to Jeanne Felter, director of Philadelphia University’s Community and Trauma Counseling Porgram, this conference “was designed to promote interdisciplinary approaches for dealing with traumatized children” (Jablow 2017, p.7). By engaging those working in a variety of fields, the conference aimed to prompt a dialogue that combined perspectives and expertise. There were 360 attendees from both Philadelphia and the Eastern United States, with almost a quarter of them regularly working with children.
As well as having several keynote speakers, the three day conference had a workshop structure. For the first two mornings, attendees were able to choose one of six discipline-specific learning tracks. They would then attend three-hour workshops with peers in their field to discuss relevant trauma training.
The afternoons of the first two days had participants attend workshops with those from a variety of fields, bringing what they had learned that morning to a round table discussion. The conference’s website cites two learning outcomes for these days: first, to “acquire trauma knowledge and concepts, which serve as the requisite foundation for discipline-specific trauma-focused intervention,” and second, to “demonstrate enhanced clinical reasoning through discipline-specific case conceptualization” (The Greater Philadelphia Trauma Training Conference, n.d.).
Finally, on the third day of the conference, attendees were given a fictional case; the case of sixth-grader Jailyn, who was bounced from a dysfunctional biological family to the foster care system and has struggled with her trauma ever since. The learning outcomes of this day were to “examine the role of other professionals and paraprofessionals in helping children heal, articulate an enhanced understanding of different child-serving systems, examine [your] own role in healing, resulting in a strengthened professional identity, demonstrate skills related to advocacy, consultation, and comprehensive treatment planning, [and] demonstrate cross-sector collaboration” (The Greater Philadelphia Trauma Training Conference, n.d.).
Many of the participants found the conference enlightening and informational. “You still get ‘a-ha’ moments” (Jablow 2017, p.25), said Pamela Turner-Bunyon, an elementary school counselor who attended the conference.
These ‘a-ha’ moments are pivotal in building understanding between traumatized children and the adults working with them. Marty Wolner, an instructor at Lakeside Global Institute, said, “We live in a very non-listening world. For a lot of people, listening is waiting for your turn to talk” (Jablow 2017, p.15). To give children who have been shouted over, or simply not listened to, the opportunity to be heard is certainly a crucial lesson.
Sandra Bloom, associate professor of health management and policy at the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University, was the closing keynote speaker of the conference. She insisted that, “The effects of trauma and the importance of trauma-informed care have to be common knowledge, like ‘you need seat belts ‘ or ‘smoking is bad for you’” (Jablow 2017, p.33).
The conference, advertised as the “first annual” of its kind, is all about normalizing the conversation around assisting those dealing with trauma. According to the conference’s website, its ultimate goal is to improve the health and educational outcomes for children– a phrase with zing as well as a weighty promise. Such a promise, though, one would imagine, could indeed only come to fruition with the exact cross-discipline discourse the conference encourages.
For more on this topic please read, “Explaining behavior: Professionals seek to address students’ trauma.”
The Greater Philadelphia Trauma Training Conference. (n.d.). Retrieved July 28, 2017, from http://wordpress.philau.edu/philatraumaconference/
Jablow, P. (2017, July 25). Explaining behavior: Professionals seek to address students’ trauma. Retrieved July 28, 2017, from http://thenotebook.org/articles/2017/07/25/learning-how-to-deal-with-student-trauma