Abstract: Teaching Trauma Content: A Systematic Review on How to Minimize Potential Adverse Consequences on Students (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Teaching Trauma Content: A Systematic Review on How to Minimize Potential Adverse Consequences on Students

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Jessica Gladden, PhD, Assistant Professor, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
Bridget Weller, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Western Michigan University, MI
Andrea Hopkins, JD, MSW Student, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo
Melinda McCormick, PhD, Assistant Professor, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
Background and Purpose: To adequately prepare the next generation of social workers, schools of social work are increasingly offering courses that include trauma content. However, exposure to this content can be problematic as many social work students have a personal history of trauma exposure, placing them at heightened risk for (re)experiencing adverse consequences, such as vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress. To reduce the potential for such consequences, instructors need information on teaching methods that are most likely to protect students from harm, while preparing them for their future in the social work profession. The purpose of this systematic review is to summarize the literature on teaching methods used to reduce the potential that trauma content in the classroom will cause (a) retraumatization; (b) vicarious traumatization; or c) secondary traumatic stress (collectively "adverse consequences") in higher education students. Specifically, this study addressed the following questions: What teaching methods are instructors using to reduce the potential for trauma content to adversely influence higher education students? How effective are these teaching methods in mitigating potential adverse consequences from trauma content on higher education students?

Methods: We used the PRISMA guidelines for systematic reviews. Two individuals independently searched Web of Knowledge, Scopus, and PsychINFOusing the following search terms: trauma* AND retrauma* OR vicarious trauma* OR secondary trauma* OR trauma-informed* AND teach* OR educat*. Each individual reviewed titles and abstracts published before February 12, 2020 and tracked whether the article met inclusion criteria using abstrackr. For all articles that met the inclusion criteria, we also reviewed their reference lists to identify other potentially relevant articles. Discrepancies about whether a study met inclusion criteria were discussed (n=53), and consensus was obtained.

Results: Based on our key terms, and after duplicates were removed, we identified 1,963 articles. We identified 47 additional articles by reviewing the reference lists of the articles that met the inclusion criteria. Thus, we screened the title and abstract of 2,010 articles. Of these, we excluded 1,948 because they did not meet the inclusion criteria. We reviewed a total of 62 full-text articles to assess for inclusion. Of these, we excluded 33, leaving a total of 29 articles meeting the inclusion criteria.

Of the 29 articles meeting the inclusion criteria, 11 described instructor experiences with teaching trauma content, 8 provided conceptual frameworks, 6 described specific teaching strategies, and 4 examined the effectiveness of these teaching methods.

Conclusions and Implications: Results indicate a majority of articles describe either conceptual models or strategies instructors can use to teach trauma content; however, few studies have examined the effectiveness of these approaches. Results from this study indicate that future research needs to identify which teaching methods are effective in mitigating the potential adverse consequences due to exposure to trauma content.