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Why a Trauma Capacity Building Approach?

As has been well documented over the last 20 years, substance use, neglect, chaos, attachment disruptions, abuse and traumatic stress all impact the development of the brain and result in complicated and heterogeneous functional presentations in children, youth, and adults. Furthermore, the timing, severity, pattern, and nature of these developmental insults have a variable and heterogeneous impact on the developing brain (Perry, 2001, 2002). The result is a complex picture with increased risk of physical health, sensorimotor, self-regulation, relational, cognitive, and a host of other problems, including relationship issues, justice and criminal activity, mental illness and health-related problems, work absenteeism and employee production decreases, etc. (e.g., Felitti et al., 1998; Anda

et al., 2006).


The development of evidence-based processes for these complex children and youth has been challenging. The very heterogeneity of their developmental histories and functional presentations impedes the creation of the homogeneous “groups” required for quality outcome or phenomenological research (e.g., Jovanovic & Norrholm, 2011). The clinical challenges are even more daunting. A 15-year-old child may have the self-regulation capacity of a 5-year-old, the social skills of a 3-year-old, and the cognitive organization of a 10-year-old. And, due to the unique genetic, epigenetic, and developmental history of each child, it is impossible to apply a “one-size-fits-all”  approach.


What we do know is that knowledge is power, and we know that if we can educate staff, students and stakeholders about brain development and developmental trauma and then to use a "trauma capacity building approach” or process, then we will have much more success than only relying on a one-tier approach or, more daunting, not addressing these issues at all.  By teaching our communities about how the brain works, develops, changes and is impacted by adversity (including trauma) we can then begin to move forward towards increased knowledge, improved programming and understanding and, eventually, healing. 


By looking at whole environments, small group interventions, parenting  and community support groups and, where needed, one-on-one therapeutic response, we feel we can create a strong model of how the NWT could move forward in creating “Trauma Sensitive Schools” and therefore “Trauma Sensitive and Informed Communities.”

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