The Foundation Trust Spotlight showcases our staff and partners and highlights the important work they are doing to advance resources and services in our programming areas of focus. For our first installment in this series, we are delighted to feature Kaitlyn Marie Wilson, LICSW Training & Resource Development Associate for the foundation.
An important aspect of our foundation’s work is its focus on providing tools and resources to help people understand and overcome complex trauma and life adversity. In addition to awarding grants to small and medium-sized New England nonprofits, the Foundation Trust leverages our internal expertise on complex trauma to develop and disseminate worldwide educational materials that may benefit youth and adult trauma survivors, their loved ones, and their multidisciplinary service providers. Our primary vehicle for achieving this aim is www.complextrauma.org, a comprehensive resource website developed and maintained by the Foundation Trust.
Our very own Kaitlyn Marie Wilson co-developed complextrauma.org with our Executive Director, Dr. Joseph Spinazzola, and continues to be a key contributor to its content. Kait joined the foundation in 2018 as our Training & Resource Development Associate. Now with her own private practice, she has done extensive front-line work as a practicing clinician, supervisor, and professional trainer in the fields of behavioral health, substance abuse and parent infant mental health for high-risk, under-served girls and women. Kait dedicates her professional career to ensuring access to education and effective treatment for diverse populations impacted by complex trauma and the treatment and service providers caring for them.
Kait’s passion for improving access and usability of treatment tools stems from her own diverse upbringing, and her strongly held conviction that “experiences shape people, it is not that there is something wrong with them.” She explains that “I knew I wanted to work to change that narrative.” Kait utilizes lived and professional experience to apply concepts and translate educational tools and treatment interventions to address the cultural and contextual needs of those she serves.
“I create resources for providers and those impacted by complex trauma. What I love about it is that everyone at the Foundation Trust strongly believes that complex trauma is about what people have experienced, and not that there is something inherently “wrong” with them,” Kait emphasizes. “It’s about breaking down walls and finding ways to recover from those experiences, knowing that there is hope and possibility for change.”
Kait explains what drew her to social work in general and her work on complex trauma in particular. She notes that “like many people, I had some tricky childhood experiences. Now, reflecting back, I see that what was impactful in my life at those times was that I was exposed to diverse experiences, also some that were racially related. I was very much shaped by those experiences, in both good and challenging ways.”
Kait recently wrote openly about her struggle coming to terms with her racial identity in her article: I am Biracial: My Journey to Overcoming Systemic Racism and Reconnecting with my Cape Verdean Roots. When her son was born earlier this spring, it prompted her to reflect more deeply on her own racial identity and Cape Verdean heritage, as well as the ways she tried to escape racism by acting White, a behavior that was ingrained early by both sides of her family. Of her own childhood, Kait says that “being Black wasn’t really ok where I grew up. There were negative connotations of what being Black meant. It was confusing because those people were my family too. They were just as smart, kind, and valuable to society.”
“My racial identity was a big question mark. When filling out forms asking for race, I never knew how to answer that question and probably changed my answer every time,” she admits, “but by the time the Black Lives Matter movement first started, I was sick of not knowing who I was.” She adds that “Cape Verdeans struggle with similar issues of racial identity. People’s backgrounds are so mixed: Portuguese, Caucasian, Africans, slaves. Many people have in their own family histories both slaves and slave owners, and it is hard to figure out what that means to you. Do you identify as Caucasian, knowing that makes you complicit in systemic racism, or do you identify as African, knowing that means you won’t have as many opportunities today?”
Kait wants things to be different for her son, saying “I want him to be able to identify himself confidently as biracial in a way I couldn’t and still can’t fully. I want him to explore what that means for him and to have the opportunity to decide and learn about other cultures. I hope he can have those important, vulnerable conversations about how racism impacts his own family and social systems.”
Her experience with her racial identity has extended into her professional life as well, which Kaitlin speaks about in her article A Simple Statement about a Complex Thing. In this article, she shares her experience as a clinician when it became clear to clients and other staff members that she is Biracial. “The shift in my role was nearly visceral and I soon became privy to the unmet needs of minority clients and staff,” she states in the article. Her eyes were opened to the systemic nature in which minorities were left out of the conversation, in both large and small ways. In our recent call, she noted that “it is very rare to have those conversations out loud.” She went on to say that it’s not enough to hold one-off workshops, clarifying that “if people are not having those conversations naturally in person, it won’t change.”
Kait believes there is an opportunity for Biracial people to play a valuable role in current discussions of systemic racism. “I have one foot in two worlds,” she says. “People who are Biracial can see that both sides have impactful experiences shaping their views. These views have formed over time, so it will take a lot of talking about them out loud and working on them collaboratively for anything to change. At the same time, these conversations can be so emotionally charged that they are not always productive. What is needed is someone who can help provide structure and safely guide these conversations that require people to be vulnerable. People need to feel comfortable being vulnerable; they will be uncomfortable talking about race if they feel like they are being attacked.”
In both her personal and professional life, Kait does extraordinary work helping people heal and empowering them to find their voice, both through her interactions with others as well as through the resources she helps create. We are grateful for the depth of experience, knowledge, and compassion Kait brings to her work at the Foundation Trust. We encourage you to visit www.complextrauma.org, where you can explore more of her work.