Using the Core Curriculum on Childhood Trauma to Strengthen Clinical Knowledge in Evidence-based Practitioners

Publication Date



Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology





Published Open-Access



adult, clinical competence, competency-based education, curriculum, evidence-based practice, health knowledge, attitudes, practice, humans, mental health services, psychiatric nursing, students


The high prevalence of trauma exposure in mental health service-seeking populations, combined with advances in evidence-based practice, competency-based training, common-elements research, and adult learning make this an opportune time to train the mental health workforce in trauma competencies. The Core Curriculum on Childhood Trauma (CCCT) utilizes a five-tiered conceptual framework (comprising Empirical Evidence, Core Trauma Concepts, Intervention Objectives, Practice Elements, and Skills), coupled with problem-based learning, to build foundational trauma knowledge and clinical reasoning skills. We present findings from three studies: Study 1 found that social work graduate students' participation in a CCCT course (N = 1,031) was linked to significant pre-post increases in self-reported confidence in applying core trauma concepts to their clinical work. Study 2 found significant pre-post increases in self-reported conceptual readiness (N = 576) and field readiness (N = 303) among social work graduate students participating in a "Gold Standard Plus" educational model that integrated classroom instruction in core trauma concepts, training in evidence-based trauma treatment (EBTT), and implementation of that EBTT in a supervised field placement. Students ranked the core concepts course as an equivalent or greater contributor to field readiness compared to standard EBTT training. Study 3 used qualitative methods to "distill" common elements (35 intervention objectives, 59 practice elements) from 26 manualized trauma interventions. The CCCT is a promising tool for educating "next-generation" evidence-based practitioners who possess competencies needed to implement modularized, individually tailored trauma interventions by strengthening clinical knowledge, clinical reasoning, and familiarity with common elements.