NKU Offers Trauma-Focused Care Micro-Credential  

First Cohort Earns Specialized Training

Trauma Focused Care group
Students earning the Trauma-Focused Care Micro-Credential pose with Dr. Amanda Brown (far left).

March 15, 2019—Northern Kentucky University graduate students are the first to earn Trauma-Focused Care micro-credentials this month. The cohort of 24 students will receive this designation via Credly and will participate in a celebration ceremony on March 21.

NKU’s two-class micro-credential began in the Fall 2018 semester. These courses are offered in the accelerated seven-week format and are designed to look at the neuroscience of trauma and how professionals understand and engage with consumers of care.

“The focus shifts from ‘what’s wrong with you’ to ‘let’s talk about what happened to you.’ That may sound simple, but shifting the perspective of professionals tasked with helping the individual changes the conversation,” said Dr. Amanda Brown, assistant professor of Social Work. “We know there is a biological change when people experience trauma, you can see it on brain scans. Our micro-credential trains students to understand the bio-physiological perspective and how to educate others to adjust their viewpoint.”

The master’s level students are primarily focused in social work or counseling, but other professions who deal with trauma, like nursing and education, also are able to receive the micro-credential. The classes emphasize that trauma can happen at any age and explore the full spectrum from childhood to adulthood. They also focus on the importance of resiliency and helping people heal and grow from these traumatic experiences.

“Working in a foster care agency, I saw firsthand how placement can affect a child’s growth, development and wellbeing at any age. However, I didn’t understand about the relationship between trauma and the brain. Learning that is an eye opener,” said Sr. Florence Anyabuonwu, MSW student. “My clients are children of all ages and races who have been forcefully removed from their homes due to violence, drug abuse, crime and other related issues. All of these are triggers that can impact them for life, and that trauma can alter their brain structure.”

Dr. Brown worked to establish NKU’s micro-credential, so her students could demonstrate specialized knowledge in trauma-focused care beyond what is offered in an elective. She was inspired by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) call for best practice models for trauma-focused care.

“SAMHSA focused on the need for specialized training in this area, and NKU responded,” said Dr. Brown. “We also have the support from the Tri-State Trauma Network, the local clearinghouse organization for evidence-based trauma responsive practices. This micro-credential gives masters level students the perspective to pause and consider trauma. It goes beyond social work and counseling. Anyone can benefit from understanding how past experiences and trauma continue to impact someone.”

The micro-credential is offered for masters level students because it requires practicum or field experience to draw on during discussions. Students who completed the micro-credential say they already see the impacts on the quality of care they provide to their clients.

“These classes helped me think of small ways I can ensure trauma-focused care to my clients, including the setup of my office. I now understand the importance of positioning my clients to face the door. Doing this will increase their sense of safety and allow a more therapeutic relationship,” said Krysten Creamer, MSW student.

“I think the most surprising and valuable thing I have learned so far through the coursework is how resilient we are as human beings,” said Jamie Hennies, MSW student. “Even though we sometimes experience some really difficult things, with the right support and interventions we are able to overcome.”

To learn more about NKU’s trauma-focused care micro-credential, visit the website and select the health or counseling tab. NKU’s graduate programs in social work and counseling are housed in the College of Education and Human Services (https://www.nku.edu/academics/coehs/programs.htm).  

About NKU:  Founded in 1968, we are a growing metropolitan university of more than 14,000 students served by more than 2,000 faculty and staff on a thriving suburban campus near Cincinnati. Located in the quiet suburb of Highland Heights, Kentucky—just seven miles southeast of Cincinnati—we have become a leader in Greater Cincinnati and Kentucky by providing a private school education for a fraction of the cost. While we are one of the fastest growing universities in Kentucky, our professors still know our students' names. For more information, visit nku.edu.