Jessica Hughes


Serving the Servants: Critical Trauma-informed Servant Leadership with Social Workers & Peer Specialists


Social workers and peer specialists have higher trauma histories, vicarious trauma (VT), and burnout. The Veterans Health Administration employs thousands of social workers and peer specialists who would benefit from ongoing trauma-informed supervision (TIS). A social work supervision model is absent from the literature. One solution is to create a supervision model that may be peer-driven and trauma-informed. This capstone product examines existing but inconsistent TIS guidelines in the literature within adult healthcare settings. A conceptual model synthesizes critical disability theory and Mad Studies, applying them to principles of TIS through a servant leadership framework. TIS ensures safe spaces for staff to develop professionally. Servant leadership supports and models self-care at the agency level. Critical theories challenge the medical model of mental distress and acknowledge disability and neurodiversity. This model is applied to leadership by delineating the model’s significant components and implementation. CTISL provides supportive supervision, enhances team collaboration, and empowers staff to practice supervision and leadership skills through collaborative peer mentoring. Implications for leadership are examined.


Ms. Hughes graduated with honors with a BSW in 1998 and an MSW in 2001. A licensed clinical social worker since 2004, Ms. Hughes enjoys empowering clients, peer specialists, and social workers to fulfill their goals. Jessica will graduate with a Doctorate from the University of Kentucky’s College of Social Work in May 2024. Additional areas of research interest are social work leadership and supervision, ethics, Mad Studies, peer support, and self-disclosure. Ms. Hughes is skilled in clinical supervision and individual and group psychotherapy. Ms. Hughes is experienced in behavioral health treatments, including CBT, ACT, Prolonged Exposure, Cognitive Processing, REBT, and Advanced Safety Planning Intervention. Ms. Hughes enjoys working with active-duty service members and veterans. She currently has the privilege of caring for veterans as a psychotherapist with the VISN 4 Clinical Resource Hub (CRH), part of the VHA’s SP 2.0 Suicide Prevention National Telehealth Program. This role allows her to continue building her therapeutic and leadership skills. Ms. Hughes has published online, including poetry, letters to the editor, and academic presentations. She is a proud member of Phi Alpha National Honor Society.