For the past several years, I have had the great privilege of serving as a master trainer for the How Being Trauma-Informed Improves Criminal Justice System Responses curricular offering. The curriculum is available in two formats:

  • A 4-hour interactive session in which 6 modules of substantive content on various aspects of trauma’s prevalence, correlates, effects, and individual and systemic responses are presented
  • A 2-day Train-the-Trainer (TTT) presentational format during which credentialed trainers deliver the substantive content as well as pedagogical instruction and practice on how to deliver the content while maintaining curricular fidelity. This option provides a pathway for local organizations, communities, and interested individuals to develop trauma-informed capacity that promotes ongoing curricular delivery by a cadre of local trainers.

The TTT opportunity is typically available as a solicited opportunity, funded by SAMHSA and delivered by the GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation. Delivery of the 4-hour session can also be arranged as a fee-for-service option through Policy Research Associates, Inc. or by contacting a local trainer certified by the GAINS Center.

In the last 5 years alone, 1,856 people across the country have completed the 2-day TTT. The demand for the training continues to grow, with many more communities and individuals requesting participation than can be accommodated in any given year.

While post-event feedback from participants has been very positive, trainers and coordinating staff have observed that there is, at times, a level of pre-event stress. When prospective trainees learn that, as a necessary component of the 2-day training, each participant is required to prepare and present a practice module to their colleagues on the second day, there is often some trepidation and, at time, anxiety. As a trainer who has delivered this training to hundreds of individuals and local communities, I can assure you that our goal is to assist you in your efforts to become an effective trainer. We do this by answering questions, providing constructive feedback, and continuing to support you with online resources and periodic national trainer calls. The purpose of this blog is to address some frequently voiced concerns about the structure and expectations of a TTT delivery.

Day 1: Morning Session

As noted above, a TTT delivery is structured for completion over a 2-day period. The morning session of the first day typically begins with brief introductory remarks from a site host and/or local supporter, followed by the delivery of the 6-module curriculum by 2 or more trainers. The team approach is employed to provide diverse perspectives on local implementation of training materials, facilitate training efficacy by having multiple trainers monitor adherence to time and to instructional fidelity, and assist in responding to participant questions or need for self-care. Efforts are made to select trainers whose backgrounds and areas of expertise are complementary, but not duplicative, and that reflect the needs and clientele of participants.

The modules are intentionally designed to be interactive, promote critical thinking, and invoke an emotional response. Within the six modules, there are three embedded videos and three group activities, including an expansive activity in Module 6 that employs the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) as scaffolding for examining the insertion/modifications of trauma-informed responses across criminal justice and behavioral health systems.

The curriculum developers acknowledge that some audio or visual content may trigger traumatic memories for the participants, and hosting sites/agencies may enlist the support of local counselors to be on standby to address any issues that emerge. Training staff encourage participants to monitor their personal responses and to step out, as necessary and engage in self-care.

Day 1: Afternoon Session

The afternoon session on this first day begins with a brief Q&A period related to morning content. It is important to training staff that participants understand the foundational role of the content in the development of trauma-informed responses. In a traditional in-person delivery, binders with course materials and pre-training resources are distributed at this juncture. Using the binder materials, trainers will introduce participants to

  • logistical approaches for organizing and delivering the 6-module trauma. Participants are provided with organizational timelines, sample documents for contacting agencies and individual participants, checklists for ensuring that (a) host sites are aware of audio/visual needs and preferred room set-up, and (b) trainers bring necessary tools with them to the site on the day of training.
  • pedagogical approaches for delivering the curriculum. This guidance includes a discussion of the goals and design of the curriculum, learning objectives for each module, and tips for delivery. Participants are advised that completion of the TTT qualifies them to deliver ONLY the 4-hour (6-module) session. They are not authorized to conduct other TTT events. Then, trainees are assigned a module to prepare for individual delivery in an internal practice session the following morning. This culminating event has been designed to achieve the following:
    • allow session trainers to identify and address misunderstandings about content
    • provide an opportunity for prospective trainers to observe multiple presentations of modules by cohort participants, showcasing:
      • diverse pedagogical styles,
      • methods of content delivery, and
      • use of examples to enhance subject-matter retention and implementation
    • bolster self-confidence among trainees through the provision of encouragement and constructive feedback

The first day concludes with an informal work session that pairs trainees with session trainers and provides individual-level mentorship for the following day’s practice sessions. Protocol for delivery of the practice sessions is outlined. Participants are advised they will be placed into one of several (depending on cohort size) practice rooms. Each trainee will have 20 minutes for the presentation of their assigned module, followed by approximately 10 minutes of round-robin feedback from others assigned to the practice session, including the event trainer facilitating the practice sessions in that room. While the embedded videos are not reshown, the trainees will be asked to introduce and debrief these visual activities. If an assigned module includes an interactive group activity, the trainee will be asked to introduce and process the outcome of that activity (the product of the group process from the morning of the first day is provided for this purpose).

Day 2

The morning of Day 2 of the TTT begins with a discussion of any lingering questions about substantive content and a review of protocol and expectations for the practice presentation sessions. Master trainers emphasize that, while trainees may bring different strengths to the TTT, perfection in delivering these practice deliveries is not an expectation of the TTT. Students are not graded, and every effort is made to encourage the insertion of local examples that may resonate with the personnel who will be participants in an event to be conducted by this trainee in the future.

As stated earlier, participants are divided into workgroups for the practice delivery of the modules. One master trainer is assigned to each workgroup. The trainer monitors time for each presenter and facilitates the subsequent feedback session.

Depending upon the number of participants in each workgroup and any preferences for the number and length of breaks for lunch and engagement in professional tasks, the practice sessions may continue into the afternoon. Once completed, members of all workgroups reconvene as a single group where there is an opportunity to debrief the morning sessions to identify strategies/examples that worked well or that need refinement. Trainers then outline online resources that are available to the new trainers. These include the national trainer list, the site and process for downloading training (curricular and operational) materials, and online locations for “Talk-Back” sessions and videotaped presentations that allow new trainers to review module-by-module tips for curricular delivery.

Certificates of completion are disseminated, an event assessment instrument may be administered, and final questions are addressed.