Trinity to Provide Trauma-informed Professional Development to Mental Health Counselors

Trinity to Provide Trauma-informed Professional Development to Mental Health Counselors

Training Will Focus on Clinical Mental Health and School Counselors in D.C. Wards 7 and 8

Kaiser Permanente to Sponsor Training on Trauma-informed Techniques With an Emphasis on Cultural Competency and Expressive Arts

September 8, 2021, Washington, D.C. – Trinity Washington University, with financial support from Kaiser Permanente, will provide professional development to clinical mental health counselors and school counselors in Wards 7 and 8 that will focus on trauma-informed and trauma-responsive techniques with an emphasis on expressive arts and creative arts therapy. The first cohort of Kaiser Permanente Practitioner Scholars will include mental health counselors from Community Wellness Ventures, which is based in Ward 8, and school counselors in Wards 7 and 8.

Dr. Cynthia Greer

“COVID-19 has created a tsunami of mental health challenges for African Americans and Latinx people, who were already dealing with the effects of systemic and structural racism, racial and ethnic inequality, and a growing wealth gap,” said Dr. Cynthia Greer, associate professor of counseling at Trinity and the leader of this new initiative. “COVID has compounded the effects of trauma on children and youth, who are already facing many challenges that impact their overall mental health, and specifically their emotional and social development and learning skills. Mental health professionals will need to be better prepared for the additional challenges from students, and their parents, guardians and caregivers, as they return to the classroom. We are very grateful that Kaiser Permanente recognizes this need and is providing critical funding to support this initiative.” Greer is also the lead faculty member of the Research Initiative on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Trauma at Trinity.

Kaiser Permanente is committed to improving the health of the communities we serve. We prioritize schools because good health is essential to academic success and schools can be hubs of health and a locus of change in communities,” said Celeste James, executive director, Community Health, Kaiser Permanente. “COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the mental and emotional health of young people. Kaiser Permanente is honored to support critical trauma-informed training at Trinity Washington University to help people in our communities heal and recover from this pandemic.”

“We’re very pleased to partner with Trinity to ensure that we have more culturally competent and trauma-informed mental health practitioners to address the many pressing needs of the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Dr. Charlayne Hayling-Williams, executive director of Community Wellness Ventures. “This training for our staff is more than timely given the adverse impact of the pandemic in the communities we serve. Not very many universities provide the kind of training that Trinity offers, which is an innovative approach to effective intervention. This is a model for community-university partnerships that I hope is replicated across the region and across the country.”

The training will be based on the transformative theoretical framework and model of Building Community Resilience that addresses both Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adverse Community Environments (ACEs). “ACEs research shows that students who are exposed to consistent and prolonged episodes of trauma are more likely to have learning and behavioral problems and changes in the circuitry of the brain that affects the development of essential skills,” said Greer. “This prolonged exposure produces toxic stress that interrupts a child’s ability to engage in healthy relationships and regulate their emotions. The research informs us that, for children, the pre-existing condition for toxic stress developing because of COVID-19 is previous adversity and trauma.”

There is a significant need in the District of Columbia for a greater number of culturally competent, trauma-informed, and trauma-responsive school counselors and clinical mental health counselors to provide professional support to children and youth, and their parents, guardians and caregivers. “Given Trinity Washington University’s long history of social justice advocacy and in educating and developing school counselors and professional mental health counselors, who are ACEs and trauma-informed and responsive, we know that we must be collaborators in ‘building a better normal,’” said Greer.

Greer noted that mental health professionals are already seeing children and youth who are facing additional emotional challenges because of the COVID pandemic. “There are children and youth, especially those coming from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, whose parents, guardians and caregivers may have lost their jobs; who have family members who have died from COVID-19; have experienced child and/or domestic abuse, as well as witnessed increased violence in their neighborhoods; and have faced general instability in the home and community because of racial and ethnic inequality and the growing wealth gap.”

“This pilot project is an outcome of Trinity being an active member of the D.C. Building Community Resilience Collaborative, sponsored by the Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University,” said Greer. “As members of this collaborative, we listened carefully to those who are on the ground, in agencies and community organizations, and we gained a better understanding of the specific needs of underserved communities and those who serve them. Through the D.C. BCR Collaborative, I met Dr. Hayling-Williams and learned about the important work of Community Wellness Services. We forged a partnership that we know will make a positive impact in the community.”

The Kaiser Permanente Practitioner Scholars will participate in two professional development courses. The first course will include modules to increase their multicultural competency especially as it relates to racialized trauma; competency-based instruction combined with evidence-based research on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs); and research on aspects of trauma to become trauma-informed and trauma-responsive. The second course will focus on expressive arts and creative arts therapies, which encompass healing and therapeutic techniques that have been proven to be particularly effective in trauma intervention.

This first cohort of counselors will then become trainers to their mental health colleagues in their work settings and will continue to be mentored and supported by the Trinity counseling faculty. The Kaiser Permanente Practitioner Scholars Professional Development Course in Trauma and Expressive Arts is a pilot project that will be evaluated and expanded to train more school counselors and clinical mental health counselors in Washington, D.C.

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About Trinity Washington University

Trinity Washington University was founded in 1897 as an undergraduate college for women and today enrolls more than 1,900 women and men in the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business and Graduate Studies, School of Education, School of Nursing and Health Professions, and School of Professional Studies. Trinity offers master of arts degrees in clinical mental health counseling and school counseling through the School of Nursing and Health Professions. Trinity enrolls more D.C. residents than any other private university in the city and in the nation and is designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Minority Serving Institution. Trinity is the only university in D.C. and the Washington region, and one of only a few in the country, designated as both a Predominantly Black Institution and Hispanic Serving Institution. Learn more at

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. Kaiser Permanente is recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of its members and the communities it serves. Kaiser Permanente currently serves almost 12.5 million members in 8 states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists, and team of caregivers. Kaiser Permanente’s expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery, and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education, and the support of community health. For more information, go to:

Media Contact: Ann Pauley, Trinity Media Relations,

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