Social Work Program Director Pioneers Trauma-Responsive Practices at the University of Kentucky

The University of Kentucky College of Social Work introduces a new Trauma Responsive Practice Certificate, an online program designed to equip graduates with advanced skills in trauma-informed care, addressing the significant need for specialized professionals in this field.

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Lexington, KY – The University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW) now offers a graduate certificate designed to meet the call for additional, specialized training in trauma-informed care from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The Trauma Responsive Practice Certificate was designed by Dr. Amanda Brown, a clinical faculty member and MSW program director at CoSW. Brown shaped the curriculum to harmonize traditional and somatic treatment approaches, offering students the latest research in neuroscience, evidence-based practice, experiential models, epigenetics, and more.

A primary objective of the certificate is to teach students a shift in approach: moving away from a pathologizing “what’s wrong with you” perspective to a trauma-informed, strengths-based approach that seeks to understand an individual’s life experiences with the question, “help me understand what has happened in your life”. Brown shared that “As educators in social work, we should consider trauma-informed best practices as the gold standard in social work practice and therapeutic settings.”

According to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, 70 percent of adults in the U.S have experience some type of traumatic event at least once in their life. In public behavioral health, over 90 percent of clients have experienced trauma. SAMHSA’s National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative states trauma is a risk factor for nearly all behavioral health and substance use disorders. But getting access to the needed treatment can be challenging.

In response to the critical need for trauma-informed specialists, the Trauma Responsive Practice Certificate program at the University of Kentucky is strategically positioned to meet pressing workforce demands. Offered 100 percent online, graduates of this certificate program not only gain tangible practice skills but also become champions of a compassionate and empathetic approach to trauma-informed care, helping to fill a crucial gap in the behavioral health workforce and advance the human condition always, in all ways.

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About Dr. Amanda Brown

A first-generation college student, Brown initially aspired to a career in childhood mental health. However, her trajectory shifted when she took on a part-time research assistant role while pursuing her MSSW. For three years, Brown spent up to 20 hours per week interviewing over 400 justice-involved women, revealing the profound impact of trauma within this largely underserved community. For the first five years of Brown’s doctorate and post doctorate work in research, she was aiding and examining intervention methods to mitigate harm and reduce recidivism among justice involved women.

Brown shared that she felt an ‘ethical responsibility to this underserved population of women’ as both a social worker and a citizen of the world. She added, “Typically, women take on the care-taker role, which means the impact of being sanctioned reaches a wider scope, affecting not only these women themselves but also their children and families, perpetuating cycles of hardship that demand our attention and intervention.”

Dr. Brown’s vision, research and unwavering commitment leaves an indelible mark at the intersection of social work and criminal justice. Her leadership equips future social workers with the competence and insight needed to confront intricate societal challenges, promoting a more empathetic and effective approach to trauma-informed care.

For over 85 years, the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky has been a leader in education. Our mission is clear: Through rigorous research, excellence in instruction, and steadfast service, the CoSW works to improve the human condition. Always, in all ways.

As the state’s flagship university, our mission is actualized through our deeds. Our faculty are renowned academicians dedicated to fostering the development of high-quality practitioners and researchers. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world.