Trauma-Informed Teaching

Wabash Center’s Podcast Series: Dialogue On Teaching

When Trauma Touches the Teaching Experience with Dr. Lisa Cataldo

Hosted by Wabash Center Director, Nancy Lynne Westfield, Ph.D.
Podcast Producer: Rachel Mills
Sound Engineer: Dr. Paul O. Myhre

Original Podcast music by Dr. Paul O. Myhre

The increased experiences of uncertainty, loss, grief, and sorrow are part of every school community. These conversations are intended to provide critical information about trauma, trauma informed pedagogies, and approaches faculty and administrators might consider before being confronted with issues of fear, devastation, and communal crisis. Dr. Cataldo is a licensed psychoanalyst. Through recollecting her own mistakes in teaching, explaining basic information, and clarifying some of the nuances of trauma, Dr. Cataldo’s dialogues with Lynne Westfield bring insight for this extended moment when the world is still grappling with the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic and when the violences of racism are frequent and terrifying.


First of the Series: Informed definitions of trauma are needed. Classrooms are never spaces for therapy. Ways of developing trauma awareness, self-care strategies and referrals. Creating spaces of respect, regard and care are needed for faculty, administration, and students aid in care? What could go wrong while attending to the needs of students? Why are classrooms never to be spaces of therapy?



Second of the Series: How are you? The response to this question can be weighty during the COVID 19 pandemic. What we teach can be disturbing. What adjustments in our syllabi and teaching practices might aid in care? What could go wrong while attending to the needs of students? Why are classrooms never to be spaces of therapy?


Third of the Series: What is trauma and how does trauma affect body, mind, and spirit? Are there different kinds of trauma? Since classrooms are spaces of human interactions, understanding how fear and woundedness affects the teacher and the learner is critical to effective teaching. What classroom practices might lessen the experience of fear, helplessness, voicelessness, and being overwhelmed?



Fourth in the Series: What kinds of preparedness is there for events like mass shooting or a devasting storm? What does it mean to teach immediately after these events? What happens when these events occur in your school or immediate community or in your classroom? How does one teach when there is a national interruption? What is a trauma informed classroom?



Fifth in the Series: Given the continued effects of the viral pandemic, compounded by weather disasters, world news of crisis and devastation, rising incidents of racism, plus any troubles unique to your own family, etc. – THIS IS A COMMUNAL MOMENT OF LONG-TERM STRESS. Teachers must ask, in the midst, how are we showing up? We know everyone is not equally affected by this moment, everyone is not participating in the same reality, and yet we know all of us are strained, taxed, and stressed.  Uncertainty fatigue is pervasive. This conversation helps know how to check-in with self, students and colleagues. We discuss the difference between submission and surrender for the health of self and community. We discuss ways of coping with despair, suffering, how to be together in sorrow, grief, and practices of spirituality which will hold us during this extended chaos. 



Sixth in the Series: Learning to listen to, attend to, and care for your body strengthens our ability to cope with stress, anxiety, and trauma. In this moment of pandemics when something has happened to every-body, regularly checking-in with your body can inform if professional help is needed.  




Lisa Cataldo, MDiv, Ph.D, is Associate Professor of Pastoral Mental Health Counseling at Fordham University Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, where she teaches courses in Trauma, Clinical Integration, Psychology and Religion, and Professional Ethics. She is a faculty member and supervisor at the National Institute for the Psychotherapies in New York City, where she maintains a small private practice. Her interests include issues of trauma and multiplicity, intersubjectivity, and experiences of the other in clinical and religious perspective.

Topic Websites:

*This is by no means an exhaustive list. It is designed to provide useful information on trauma for teachers in higher education. It is not meant to address clinical issues, nor to give advice about trauma treatment, which should only be undertaken by trained mental health professionals.


Suggested bibliography on trauma and trauma-informed teaching:

Herman, J. (1997) Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror.  New York: Basic Books. ISBN-10: 0465087302

Levine, P. A. (2010). In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness.Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
The originator of Somatic Experiencing therapy addresses trauma’s effects on the body/mind. Includes useful emotional regulation practices.

Menakem, R. (2017). My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies. Las Vegas, NV: Central Recovery Press. ISBN-13: 978-1942094470
Engages the effects of intergenerational trauma and the legacy of slavery on Black bodies and others. Includes grounding and affect-regulation practices appropriate for every day use.

Perry, B.D. and M. Szalavitz (2006) The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook. New York: Basic Books. ISBN-10: 0465056539.
Clear and compelling stories with explanations of the effects of childhood trauma on development.

Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. New York: Viking. ISBN-13: 978-0143127741
Foundational understanding of the neuropsychology and effects of trauma

Van Dernoot Lipsy, L. (2009). Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide for Caring for Self While Caring for Others. San Francisco, CA: Berret-Koehler. 
Useful self-care for anyone in a helping role.

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