ETSU conference to focus on trauma-informed social work, networking

Brandon Paykamian • Jan 2, 2020 at 7:33 PM

Registration is underway for East Tennessee State University’s East Tennessee Social Work Professional Development Conference, which will be held in the Millennium Center on Feb. 28.

Brittany Wilkins, an associate professor and conference organizer, said the event is an opportunity for social workers to “network and learn from each other” through workshops, a Social Services Career and Field Fair and more. 

“Networking is how we get stuff done,” she said. “It’s so critical. Making those personal connections can help you working with a client.”

The annual conference, sponsored by the ETSU Department of Social Work in the College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences, is the largest of its kind in the region.

This year’s workshops will focus on trauma-informed practices in social work. Wilkins said there has been a growing need for continued education that centers on adverse childhood experiences research, in particular. 

“I think the data coming out of ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) studies showing the negative impacts of trauma on physical and mental well-being has really spurred a national — if not international — interest,” she said. “How can we help find the factors that could be detrimental but also help and support the factors that could be protective in helping the (individual’s) resilience while acknowledging the trauma?

“Maybe what we’re seeing as quote ‘negative behaviors’ has been adaptive at some point in a person’s life,” she later added. “How can we maybe take that behavior and view it through that lens?”

Workshops for continuing education credits include sessions on building a trauma-informed community, working with field students with trauma histories, trauma-informed practice with transgender and non-binary clients and brain-spotting, a brain-based therapeutic model for healing from a variety of physical and emotional problems. A non-CE workshop titled “Preparing for Social Work Licensure” will also be available.

“A lot of the focus recently has been trauma-informed care on an individual level — trauma-informed care in a therapy type of situation,” Wilkins said. “A lot of these social workers will have been trained in trauma-informed care on an individual level, but they’re kind of getting more of that community level (perspective) now.”

The conference will be free for all ETSU Department of Social Work-affiliated participants and Community Advisory Board members. The fee is $30 for National Association of Social Work members and $60 for non-NASW members.

For more information on the conference or registration, visit www.etsu.edu/sowkprofdev

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