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The UB School of Social Work offers a world class, affordable education. We integrate trauma-informed and human rights (TI-HR) perspectives into all aspects of our program, preparing graduates to be successful social workers in the 21st century.

Trauma-Informed and Human Rights Perspectives: Why They're Important

“Simply stated, trauma-informed practice is policy and practice based on what we know from research about the prevalence of trauma and about how it affects people.”
Nancy J. Smyth, Dean and Professor

The social work profession has given little attention to trauma-informed practice principles, and in the United States, the profession lags behind its international counterparts in promoting human rights in all areas of social work practice. Here we recognize that these perspectives are related.

We still teach the in-depth knowledge and practice, theory and research methods students want in the MSW program. The trauma-informed and human rights lenses complement this by helping social workers better understand the work they do.

Trauma-informed social work takes into account the potential role of traumatic life events and development of individuals using service delivery systems. Trauma-informed social workers recognize the staggering prevalence of traumatic experiences in the histories of many clients. Social workers with a trauma-informed lens ask their clients “What happened to you?” rather than “What is wrong with you?”

Key Facts

  • UB began offering a trauma counseling certificate in 2000.
  • The school began incorporating the trauma-informed perspective into its program in 2009.
  • In addition to research, UB social work faculty and administrators listened to feedback from professionals in the area, many of whom said trauma was the “missing piece” in their knowledge base.
  • UB social work faculty and staff began researching trauma-informed and human rights perspectives with a school-wide transformational project as part of the MSW program accreditation process.

Human Rights

We seek to explore the intersection of traumatic experiences with human rights violations, from local to global, as trauma and human rights violations frequently go hand in hand.

We as social workers are committed to the promotion of social and economic justice. A human rights perspective entails a focus on the need for social action for community change — a key part of the recovery process for trauma survivors.

Integrating Trauma-Informed and Human Rights Perspectives into the MSW Program

Here are a few examples of courses that integrate trauma-informed and human rights perspectives into the MSW curriculum.

Human Behavior in the Social Environment

Students in this class become very familiar with the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study which examined the prevalence and long-term health and social consequences of harmful childhood experiences, including traumatic events, in a large sample of adults.

Research Methods

This course is a natural fit for the TI-HR perspectives because ethics is the foundation of research involving human subjects. In this course, students examine case studies to learn how social work research can lead to positive policy changes for people who have been exposed to trauma or whose rights have been violated.

Perspectives on Trauma and Human Rights: Contemporary Theory Research Policy and Practice

Students work in small groups to focus on a range of topics, including historical and cultural trauma and refugee- and immigrant-related issues, all with a goal of informing the social work service students will deliver after they graduate, whether the setting is research- or practice-oriented.