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Advanced study in trauma offered as graduate certificate

SUNY Oswego offers a Graduate Certificate in Trauma Studies for those interested in working with trauma-affected populations.

The graduate certificate, which is recognized by the New York State Department of Education, is not only beneficial for students in the counseling program, but also for professionals in mental health care, crisis workers, first responders, emergency room personnel, funeral home directors, nurses, rape crisis centers and suicide hotlines.

“It’s a program to give students the background in the area of trauma, the impact of trauma, and evidence based treatments for trauma so that they would be able to assist people if they were working in an agency with a trauma affected population,” said Karen Wolford, chair of psychology and director of the trauma studies graduate certificate program.

The certificate

The first class for the certificate is the introduction to trauma studies, which goes over basic information about psychological and neurological aspects of trauma and exposure.

Later courses critically evaluate the research on those evidence based treatments so professionals can either more appropriately refer clients to suitable trauma informed mental health care or work with them in whatever capacity they’re skilled to work in various industries.

Key areas in this certificate is learning about the contextual nature of trauma recovery where people need to tell their trauma stories and create their own personal narrative of what they have been through, in a safe environment, to really be able to heal.

“Working with a high-risk population can give me a negative look on the world and it can instill a fear on you, but at the same time, I am also able to understand how my clients are feeling,” said Michelle Farino, graduate student in mental health counseling and candidate for the trauma studies certificate.

Beyond the core courses, the certificate program offers specialized courses for working with trauma in children, which is a new course, and trauma in the military, which was an existing course.

An important core course is compassion fatigue trauma and self care because those who work with trauma victims also need a support network.

A student's story

Farino worked as an RA as an undergraduate and realized her residents would often come and talk her about personal problems and struggles.

“I want to work somewhere, where I know I’m making a difference,” Farino said. "I’m more gratified working with people who have dealt with these traumatic experiences and being able to help them through that.”
Michelle Farino, '14
Mental Health Counseling

“I enjoyed being there for my residents and I really enjoyed that part of psychology and I realized I wanted to work more with a high risk population,” Farino said.

For her internship, Farino had the opportunity to work at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Fulton, N.Y.

“I’m doing some family counseling,” Farino said. “I also do a lot of stuff that is community based such as workshops for girls that have been sexually abused and a lot of group work experience as opposed to one on one training.”

After starting her internship at the advocacy center, Farino knew she found what she wants to do.

“I want to work somewhere, where I know I’m making a difference,” Farino said. "I’m more gratified working with people who have dealt with these traumatic experiences and being able to help them through that.”

Wolford has received inquiries from former Oswego alum who have gone though other graduate programs, but didn’t get formal training working with trauma affected populations.

“It can increase employability in agencies with trauma affected populations,” Wolford said.