Bridging Disciplinary Boundaries (January 11 - 14, 2007)

Saturday, January 13, 2007: 10:00 AM-11:45 AM
Pacific C (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
Building Trauma-Informed Social Work Research and Evaluation: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives
Speakers/Presenters:Andrea Savage, PhD, Hunter College
Beth Glover Reed, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Nina Kammerer, PhD, MPH, Brandeis University
Lisa Russell, PhD, ETR Associates
Abstract Text:
The attacks on the World Trade Center, the Asian tsunami, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have revived interest in trauma, especially traumatic reactions and trauma healing in the aftermath of terrorist or natural disasters. In addition to trauma that is a result of a violent event, like an act of nature, car accident, or a crime perpetrated by a stranger, trauma can result from being victimized in childhood or adulthood through neglect or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Recent research posits a multidirectional causal chain in which experiencing trauma precipitates a variety of coping mechanisms, including substance use and risky behavior, and that these life stressor themselves, in turn, put individuals at risk for future stressful or traumatic life events.

The clients involved with social work research and program evaluation as well as staff and researchers are likely to have experienced violence and related trauma in their lives. Yet trauma and its impacts are frequently invisible in the design, data collection, results, and reports of social work research. Further, the literature says little about the interaction of evaluation methods and the trauma characteristics of study participants.

The roundable facilitators all had roles in the Women, Co-Occurring Disorders and Violence Study (WCDVS), a SAMHSA-funded study which illuminated ways that routine assumptions, practices, and policies in evaluation and research were not informed by knowledge about trauma and its impacts. Working closely with survivors of violence, evaluators began to recognize the often hidden ways in which common practices could retraumatize survivors and compromise intervention effectiveness, study design, and data quality. We also began to understand how research and evaluation could become more trauma-informed and how this improved the quality of the evaluation and the data gathered. Carrying this knowledge into other evaluation projects has expanded our sense of possibilities in different types of evaluation.

Drawing on evaluation experience in diverse settings, as well as from their disciplinary perspectives of psychology, social work, anthropology, women's studies and public health in addition to social work, the facilitators will define key challenges and dilemmas in conducting trauma-informed research and evaluation. We will describe practical ways to assure that a research study is trauma-informed and encourage participants to share their own experiences and challenges. Topics and challenges include the importance of collaborating in all stages with those who have lived experience with trauma; using qualitative as well as quantitative approaches; understanding how program (those implementing interventions, administrators and policy makers) and evaluation staff are affected by trauma and how to provide the education, support and supervision needed to ensure fidelity and collection of high quality data. Ensuring safety is important in all contacts for data collection, especially in follow-up procedures. Assessment of the organization itself in relation to trauma-informed principles assists the organization to become more trauma-informed and ensures fidelity of implementation.

In this session, we will alternate brief presentations and handouts/worksheets with discussion among participants of the pros and cons of assessing all research and evaluation strategies for their compatibility with trauma-informed principles.

See more of Roundtable

See more of Bridging Disciplinary Boundaries (January 11 - 14, 2007)