Assess and Address Vestiges of Childhood Trauma in the Social Work Classroom

Jul 20, 2021

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Studies indicate that, for some, the appeal of the helping professions—including medicine, psychology, and social work—is their own history of trauma. Often labeled “wounded healers,” these people are believed to be motivated to help others, in part, by their own wounds. Social work educators have an obligation to remain informed about this phenomenon.

Rates of depression and suicide, as well as the important role of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in the lives of professional helpers, behoove social work educators to assess the challenges and provide effective classroom management and methods. In a recent issue of the journal Social Work Research, co-published by NASW and Oxford University Press, an article reports on a study of this phenomenon. The quantitative design of the study, with consideration of action and translational research, included the use of Adverse Childhood Experiences, Brief Resilience, and Life Satisfaction scales.

The BSW and MSW students in the study were found to have relatively high levels of adverse childhood experiences but also overall positive scores in resilience and life satisfaction. No relationship was found between ACEs and either brief resilience or life satisfaction. A low positive correlation was found between resilience and life satisfaction. The author of the article also notes that the lower scores among non-White cultural groups demand further inquiry.


Study author: Sharon Colleen Lyter, PhD, LCSW, professor, Department of Social Work, Kutztown University, Kutztown, PA



The journal Social Work is a benefit of NASW membership. It is available online or, at a member’s request, in print. Children & Schools, Health & Social Work and Social Work Research are available by subscription at a discounted rate for NASW members, either online or in print. You can find out more about the journals and subscriptions at this link.