bain-in-colorToday’s training module for new employees is about building brains. Remember, this is the third in a series of ten. This training series is designed to prepare new, inexperienced staff to deliver skillful trauma-informed care. The lessons can be taught by supervisors. Each module consists of a discussion and an exercise to try to explore the topic. And each module includes a tip sheet with ideas for how to put that skill into practice immediately, using practical strategies.

Before I go on to this module, I want to remind you about my on line training course Making It Real! Implementing Trauma-Informed Care in Child Serving Agencies.

Making It Real! is For You! 

Making It Real! is a team-based course for child serving programs. The classes consist of twelve modules.

You may be wondering what the course actually covers. Here is an outline:

  • Planning
  • Measuring and Communicating
  • Planning Your Training
  • The Therapeutic Milieu
  • Developing a Trauma-Informed Staff
  • Enhancing Clinical Skills
  • Behavior Management
  • Trauma-Informed Work with Families
  • Vicarious Traumatization
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Trauma Specific Interventions
  • Celebrating and Sustaining

Each one of these topics contains many modules. Each module contains a video, and implementation guide, and several resources.

Please check out the course here. There is a limited time introductory special with great bonuses. When you enroll in the course you can download all the materials for lifetime access. And there is a money-back guarantee, so why not try it?

Now for the third module in the New Employee Training Series- Building Brains



We have evidence that a child’s brain is changed by neglect and trauma. We can rebuild the brain through our daily activities.

Some of the brain deficits caused by early neglect and trauma are: less developed thinking, an over-developed sense of danger; difficulty using words; an under-developed ability to sort out social cues; an inability to recognize or identify emotions; confusion in their relationship with their body; little ability to observe one’s self; diminished capacity to remember; less skillful executive functions (planning, goal-setting, organizing) and difficulty with relaxing and sleeping.

We can help by: Understanding that we have to act as the thinking brain for the time being; actively teaching problem-solving rather than punishing; helping the child with attention, memory, self-observation, and impulse control; not responding to dysregulation with thinking interventions, but responding instead with calming; using interventions such as art, and dance; maintaining predictable structure; being clear in communication; teaching social interpretation through movies, etc.; teaching names of emotions; teaching recognition of bodily sensations of emotions; narrating our own use of emotion-management skills; promoting fun and offering support for sleep.

Danger: The human brain responds instantly to danger. We do not choose to do this, it just happens, because when there is danger, we need to act quickly. We become hyper-alert and focused on danger and safety. Our brain withdraws blood from non-essential activities such as digestion, and brings all the body’s resources to the muscles necessary for fighting or fleeing. Our hearts beat fast. One of the functions that is shut down is analytical thinking, because in times of danger we don’t need to think, we need to act.

In the normal course of events the danger ends and the person gradually relaxes. However, when a child is repeatedly faced with unpredictable danger beyond her ability to cope, she becomes stuck in the danger response, and is always somewhat activated. This results in the child being overly reactive, concentrating only on danger and safety, and being unable to relax. Both sleep and play are difficult. When new things happen, the child often over-reacts.

A sense of safety is necessary before the person is available for connection.

  •  The human danger response is automatic.
  • The child experiences more danger than she can handle.
  • The child gets stuck in the danger response.
  • The child can learn to recognize this and learn ways to calm herself without help.

Exercise to try:

Ask participants to remember a time they were in a near-car accident or otherwise faced sudden danger.

  • What happened in their bodies?
  • If they were sleepy, were they still?
  • If they were admiring the scenery, were they still looking at it? What were they now paying attention to?
  • If they were chatting with a friend, were they still doing so?
  • What happened afterwards? how did they return to normal?
  • How would it feel to be stuck in the danger response?
  • In what ways do we observe that our children have difficulty with relaxation?
  • What are the signals of physical and psychological danger in our treatment programs?
  • What are the signals of safety?
  • How can we decrease danger and increase safety?

For a tip sheet with practical ideas to start building brains immediately, click below:

Click Here to Build Better Brains

Let me know your reactions to these modules at and be sure to check out Making It Real!

Share this on: