National Initiative to Embed Expertise in Complex Trauma-Informed Care across the United States

The Foundation Trust is pleased to announce its involvement in a 5-year federal grant that will increase the breadth and depth of knowledge nationwide about complex trauma, its impact on children, youth and families, and its effective treatment.

The Complex Trauma Training Consortium (CTTC) is a national trainer-training and workforce development initiative that will establish sustainable expertise in complex trauma understanding, assessment, and multidisciplinary response. Supported by a National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTI) grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the CTTC is a partnership between Adelphi University, the Foundation Trust, the University of Chicago, and Alaska Behavioral Health. It is comprised of a faculty of over two dozen subject matter experts who are diverse in race, culture, language, geography and lived experience.

This initiative was borne out of the Complex Trauma Treatment Network (CTTN),  a project envisioned and overseen by the Foundation Trust’s Executive Director and renowned expert in the field of traumatic stress, Dr. Joseph Spinazzola. Between 2009 and 2021, the CTTN delivered training and technical assistance on complex trauma to over 100,000 multidisciplinary providers nationwide, reaching professionals in over 30 US states as well as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.

Dr. Spinazzola conceived and designed the current CTTC grant to take these efforts to the next level and serves as Associate Director on the project. Explains Dr. Spinazzola, “Through this major undertaking, we will equip the next generation of regional experts in the field of traumatic stress to support mental health providers, educators, child welfare and juvenile justice personnel, law enforcement, clergy, parents, and other social service providers to understand the needs of children, families and communities impacted by trauma and life adversity and to respond in ways that are compassionate, evidence-based, and  effective.”

Until now, complex trauma assessment and treatment has been concentrated in specific areas of the country, with easy access to services largely limited to major urban hubs in the U.S. coastal states in addition to Chicago and Anchorage. Since the inception of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) in 2001, the majority of grant awards have been directed to a limited number of U.S. states, and repeated awards have often been made to the same small group of academic institutions and medical centers. Proportionally, fewer federal dollars have been awarded to combat child and family trauma in many of southern, midwestern and intermountain states, in U.S. territories, or in more rural regions.

The CTTC represents a concerted effort to  address regional expertise gaps and to ameliorate the disparity in child trauma resource distribution by embedding autonomous, local expertise in every U.S. state and territory. Comments Dr. Spinazzola, “The intent of the CTTC is to create a network of over 200 trainers across 60 field sites spanning the entire United States and territories that are designed to long outlive the 5-year grant itself and to serve as knowledge and resource hubs for multidisciplinary providers and consumers for decades to come.”


Curriculum Developed and Delivered by Complex Trauma Experts

Trainers-in-training in the CTTC receive instruction in a 20-module, 40-hour CTTC curriculum spanning a comprehensive range of topics, including the intersection of complex trauma with adverse life experiences such as intergenerational trauma, systemic racism, and substance use, and emphasizes the effects of complex trauma on high-risk and marginalized groups including immigrants, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ youth and families.

The curriculum was developed by experts in the field. Trainers-in-training learn the material directly from the developers themselves. The CTTC curricula was designed to include the latest evidence and insights in the field while also reflecting the real-life challenges that providers face as well as the geographical, cultural and developmental diversity of children, families, and communities served.

Bradley Stolbach, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Chicago and Director of U. Chicago’s REACT Program (Recovery & Empowerment After Community Trauma) directs the Youth & Family Advisory Board for the CTTC grant and serves as a technical advisor to the field sites. According to Dr. Stolbach, “The CTTC has brought together a diverse group of professionals to develop a complex trauma curriculum that truly addresses the many layers and levels of complex trauma, including historical trauma, ancestral trauma, intergenerational trauma, and race-based, gender-based, and other identity-based trauma. This curriculum has given teams all over the United States the knowledge and confidence to incorporate this often overlooked yet essential content into the training they provide to those who serve children, youth, and families in a wide range of settings.”

One of the module developers, Dr. LaVerne Demientieff, Professor and Department Chair at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Social Work Department, reflects on her training, noting that “I am grateful to have had the time and support to focus on putting together this ancestral trauma and wellness presentation for the CTTC. The framework I put together includes Elder wisdom and practices, discussing compassion, connection, community, curiosity, and ceremony, as a guide for this work in a variety of ways. I look forward to facilitators adapting the information and utilizing their own context, cultures, and experiences.”


Relationship Building and Professional Development Opportunities for Trainers-in-Training

As the trainings have taken shape, collaborative approaches have come to the forefront, with participants actively forming new connections and sharing experiences. As Mandy Habib, Psy.D., Co-Director of the Institute for Adolescent Trauma Training and Treatment at the Adelphi University School of Social Work, and the CTTC Project Director, notes, “There are so many things about this initiative that I find exciting, not the least of which are the relationships we’re building. At its core, complex trauma is relational. A big piece of how we’re addressing it is through building and capitalizing on relationships.  Our trainers train together over time, forming relationships, sharing resources, and leveraging knowledge. And by using a standardized curriculum as a base, they’re promoting the establishment of a shared language among the wide range of providers who work so closely with children day to day. This network of more than 200 expert complex trauma trainers will collectively provide training to over 25,000 child-serving multidisciplinary providers, all of whom already have a shared vision of improving the lives of youth, and will, after training, also share a common language and knowledge base as they work toward a common goal.”


The current cohort, the first of three, includes more than 65 trainers-in-training from field sites across 15 US states, and their diverse backgrounds add additional depth to the group trainings. “Each professional carries their own lens in which they experience, address, and relate to complex trauma. The consortium allows for professionals of diverse communities and perspectives to connect, share resources, and create a foundation for complex trauma knowledge which better accounts for survivors’ unique experiences,” comments the Foundation Trust’s Kaitlyn Marie Wilson, LISCW, who serves as the Master Training Advisor on the CTTC project and ensures that all trainers-in-training undergo a rigorous fidelity process on the curriculum before they can be recognized as a “rostered” CTTC trainer. “With renewed awareness, connections, and continued conversation through the consortium, we can adapt education, treatment, and resources to enhance resilience for survivors and those who care for them.”

Dr. Rayna Friendly, Curriculum Developer and Lead Trainer for the Hannah Institute is a seasoned trainer in the area of child trauma and one of three freestanding CTTC trainers-in training from California, echoes these sentiments, “This project not only connects me and my colleagues with experts on a multitude of critical topics related to complex trauma, but also provides space for us to connect with passionate and talented trauma-informed trainers and practitioners across the country. I appreciate the variety of perspectives, experiences, and advice when it comes to strategies about how to facilitate learning experiences around complex trauma most effectively for different types of audiences, such as therapists, social workers, teachers, or caregivers.”

The chance to learn from and connect with experts in the field has added to the value of this project to the trainers themselves. “This project is exciting in so many ways!” remarks Jenn Unger of the Center for Great Expectations (CGE), the CTTC Field Site for New Jersey. “I recall being in the very first CTTC class on the topic of Complex Trauma and Substance Use Disorders with Dr. Debbie Ruisard. Debbie is masterful in her explanation of substance use. Then I happened to see Dr. Eliana Gil as a peer in the group learning about the same topic. I was starstruck as I had read Dr. Gil's work and her book, Helping Abused and Traumatized Children: Integrating Directive and Nondirective Approaches during my master's program working with children in underserved areas. I recall texting my past clinical supervisor and an incredible play therapist who we worked with to say Dr. Gil and I were in the same Zoom room. They were so excited for me and the work CGE gets to be a part of through this initiative. We at CGE have a deep gratitude and a sense of responsibility to share this critically valuable information with the community at large.”


Far-Reaching Community Trainings

Rostered CTTC trainers will collectively conduct over 1,000 training events, ultimately delivering training to over 25,000 multidisciplinary providers, consumer and allied professionals nationwide. As of September 2023, even though the project is only in its early stages, over 1,500 individuals have already attended community trainings led by CTTC trainers, including professionals in the areas of mental health, child welfare, education, juvenile justice, and residential services.

Recognizing that trainers-in-training are working with different populations and demographics, The CTTC encourages teams to tailor the presentations to their own local conditions. This allows the trainers to take what they have learned and adapt the content to be most relevant to their particular audiences.

“At Hanna Institute, we plan to leverage these trainings by tailoring the content to our specific learners, whether they be therapists, social workers, teachers, caregivers, or others interested in learning how experiencing complex trauma impacts brain, body, and behavior. We hope to merge the developer’s expertise on specific complex trauma topics with our Institute’s focus on trauma-informed care principles, especially enhancing safety and focusing on empowerment for both trauma survivors and those providing the survivors with care and support,” comments Dr. Rayna Friendly.

Similarly, Kelley Butler LCSW, Mental Health Director at Rancho San Antonio Boys Home notes that “Being selected as the CTTC site for the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, Rancho San Antonio plans to greatly expand our training department and efforts so that we can become a major contributor to increasing trauma training and interventions locally and nationally. Our ability to use what we are learning from this network of experts will allow us to expand our reach so that we can positively impact the lives of youths, individuals, and families. We will be able to provide these trainings to other service providers, partners in the community, and others who can benefit from this life-changing information so that we can ALL raise our awareness of how trauma impacts us and increases the risk of developing mental health, substance use, and other life challenges. With this information, we will also be able to raise awareness of protective factors to support resilience, recovery, and healing from trauma.”

“These trainers bring so much to the table: energy and commitment, a wide range of professional and personal backgrounds, and unique lived experiences. This is a dynamic group that will make a lasting difference in advancing knowledge of complex trauma, and we are grateful for their enthusiasm and commitment to bring what they are learning back for the betterment of their communities,” says Dr. Spinazzola.


Psychoeducational Resources Bring the Curriculum to Life

In addition to trainings, supplemental products are under development to further enhance several of the modules.

Reflecting on stories and experiences of deep insecurities and countless questions about the ability to nurture and protect children due to the impact of surviving one’s own childhood trauma, Foundation Trust Training Associates Dr. Jana Pressley and Kaitlyn Marie Wilson, LISCW serve as Module Developers and Technical Assistants on the CTTC project and authored a resource with suggestions to support parents and other caregivers in building self-awareness and self-compassion as they navigate their parenting journeys. Turning the Tide: Parenting in the Wake of Past Trauma is available to the public and complements the content of Module 16. As of September, 2023, this educational resource has already been disseminated to over 2,700 people nationwide.

Additional youth-led initiatives will enhance the curriculum through the generation of complementary audiovisual and theatrical materials that will bring teaching points to life by incorporating diverse racial, gender, and cultural voices and points of view. “Our partnerships with youth theatre and music programs will amplify the voices of young complex trauma experts, many of whom have survived both individual interpersonal trauma as well as the trauma induced by our systems of child removal and mass incarceration,” comments Dr. Stolbach. “The content they create will complement didactic content and provide training recipients with another way of knowing and understanding core concepts of the curriculum.”


Recruitment of Additional Trainer-Training Field Sites

The CTTC is currently in the process of recruiting the second of three cohorts of trainer-training field sites. Up to 22 field sites will be added during this next round of trainer-training, with each field site comprised of 3-7 team members. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis throughout fall 2023, with new field sites commencing a 12–18-month process of trainer-training in January 2024. Field site applications will be considered from a wide variety of organizations, including group therapy practices, community centers, academic institutions, medical centers and training institutes.

Applications are currently being accepted from prospective field sites in the following 37 US states, territories and districts: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin & Wyoming.

Freestanding trainers from these geographical regions with demonstrated expertise in the areas of traumatic stress, child and family mental health, juvenile justice or training delivery will be considered for inclusion in the CTTC initiative in the absence of viable field site candidates.

Complex Trauma Training Consortium Field Sites

The first cohort of field sites for the CTTC initiative is comprised of over 65 trainers-in-training, including team members from 14 US states. CTTC Cohort 1 is comprised of 13 statewide field sites, two major metropolitan area field sites, and four freestanding trainers.

Colorado: Center for Healing Trauma & Attachment

Georgia: Hope Springs Mind, Body, Spirit

Iowa: ACES 360     Illinois: Mindshift Center

Louisiana: Mercy Family Center, Project Fleur de Lis

Massachusetts: Complex Trauma Training Institute

Michigan: Grand Rapids Therapy Group

Missouri: Culverton-Stockton College

North Carolina: Children's Home Society of North Carolina

New Jersey: Center for Great Expectations

Pennsylvania: Full Being Services

Tennessee: Centers of Excellence for Children in State Custody Best Practices Collaborative

Virginia: Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery & Education

Chicago: Mercy Home for Boys & Girls

Los Angeles: Rancho San Antonio

Freestanding trainers --in California: Rayna Friendly, Ph.D.

Erin Hawkins, M.S.     Stefanie Smith, Ph.D.

--in Maryland: Cindy Rollo, LCSW-C

Free, in-person, and remote community trainings on the CTTC curriculum hosted by the field sites are underway and open to the public. Most sites can offer more extensive training, consultation and technical assistance to organizations on a fee basis. All of the initial CTTC field sites and freestanding trainers are hyperlinked here so that you can contact them directly for further information about upcoming training opportunities in your geographical region.


For More Information or to Contact Us about Participation in the CTTC Project

Resources created through this grant initiative will be available in English and Spanish, and a forthcoming registry of sites and individual trainers who have completed training in the consortium’s curriculum will be hosted at

For more information or to learn about becoming a CTTC training field site for your state, please contact