New Essay Available on the Complexity of Racial Trauma

We are pleased to debut a timely and important new section of the website: The Complexity of Racial Trauma, co-developed by Foundation Trust Senior Training Associate, Dr. Jana Pressley and our esteemed colleague, Dr. Nancy Nealious.


We welcome you to peruse the new content by clicking the hyperlink above and exploring the additional related resources listed below.

A Preview of the New Material

Increasingly, research is addressing the lived experience of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and making explicit connections between systemic racism and the neuroscience of trauma. As more is learned about these connections, there will be an increased need for compassionate understanding of complex trauma and its intersection with race, as well as robust educational materials, which this website aims to facilitate.


“The failure to validate or address experiences of and reactions to racial trauma creates a slippery slope into pathologizing and criminalizing the complex posttraumatic stress responses of BIPOC,” states Dr. Sophia Duffy, a Clinical Psychologist in private practice in Oak Park, Illinois, as well as an Assistant Professor at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois.


Reflecting from the vantage point of an educator, researcher, and practicing psychologist, Dr. Duffy notes “many BIPOC may not recognize the role historical and current racial traumas have on their functioning and learned adaptive behaviors. And so, failing to address racial trauma contributes to the ugly stereotypes of the strong and/or angry Black woman; the aggressive and/or dangerous Black man; the "grown" or "superpredator" Black boys and girls with their childhoods ripped from them, and many others. Instead of ignoring the real tragedy of racial trauma, we should extend the same curiosity, compassion, understanding and support that we give to more objectively-viewed complex traumas."


"Racial trauma is insidious," Dr. Duffy continues, "and at the core of many societies. It is also the expected and desired effect of white supremacy that dehumanizes and flattens the many intersections of self for BIPOC. We need to acknowledge, provide education for, and address racial trauma passionately while centering the voices and stories of BIPOC.”

About the Co-Author

Nancy M. Nealious, Psy.D., is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who has over 10 years’ experience serving individuals across the life span in social service organizations, community mental health, and college settings. Dr. Nealious has several areas of clinical interest and expertise, including complex trauma/abuse, relational conflicts, personal identity development (racial/ethnic, sexual, and spiritual identities), and acculturation issues. She is passionate about training and educating organizations and communities on issues related to culture, diversity/inclusion, trauma, and mental health management, especially among minority communities. Because she believes in the importance of honoring everyone’s voice in the healing process, she employs a collaborative approach to promote wellness with the people she serves.


Dr. Nealious presently works in private practice. She received her doctoral degree at Wheaton College (IL) and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Baylor University as a Trauma Recovery Specialist. Dr. Nealious is currently a student at Duke Divinity School seeking a Master of Divinity degree. She is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA).

This new section of the website will be expanded over time and delves into the following topics:

  • The definition of racial trauma as a type of complex trauma
  • Exploration into how threats to physical and psychological safety and sense of self contribute to racial trauma
  • The survival-based necessity for BIPOC to behave calmly even in the midst of threat or unreasonable demands to prevent escalation of the situation, which takes a toll on the psyche and bodies of BIPOC
  • Intergenerational wounds of historical trauma and social inequality
  • A discussion of ways forward to facilitate safe, open dialogue, collective healing, and genuine change


Identifying and addressing racial trauma is of critical importance at both the individual and community level, and the Foundation Trust has the ongoing privilege of serving as a community partner with the Cory Johnson Program for Posttraumatic Healing (CJPPH) at the Roxbury Presbyterian Church Social Impact Center in Roxbury, MA. As a community-based trauma intervention program, the CJPPH provides various community education and outreach services, and Foundation Trust is honored to collaborate through the role of training and curriculum development with this innovative group.


Reverend Liz Walker is the senior pastor at Roxbury Presbyterian Church. She is an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal tradition, alumna of Harvard Divinity School, veteran television journalist, and the first African-American weeknight news anchor in Boston. In response to the importance of public education about racial trauma, Rev. Walker asserts, “I have witnessed firsthand the enormous and sometimes insidious role that racism plays in individual and collective trauma. The long road to healing begins by confronting the pain head on with, among other tools, solid clinical information. This essay does just that. My community and I are grateful to the authors for this enlightening and artfully imaged work.”


In addition to the illuminating content on the inherent and insidious role of trauma in the BIPOC experience, the new core topic page features powerful and poignant fine art photography by Atlanta-based photographer Lucious Smith. Born in Heidelberg, Germany to a military family, Smith began to recognize the cultural similarities, as well as differences, within the human experience. His work reveals the “connective tissues” between groups that often go unrecognized.

Ibeyí No. 001.2 Brother’s Keeper ©Lucious Smith

Ibeyí No. 001.2 Brother’s Keeper ©Lucious Smith


Additional Resources

Accompanying the addition of this new core topic to the website are substantial updates to the Complex Trauma glossary, where definitions and examples for common terms in Complex Trauma and racial trauma can be found.


Additional resources focused on understanding the complexity of racial trauma, evaluating its effects, and guiding effective intervention can be found throughout the website, including, but not limited to, the following:






Complex Trauma Resource Materials

The Race and Complex Trauma section of the Complex Trauma Resource Materials page contains resources on the intersection of complex trauma, race, systemic racism, and the promotion of diversity and inclusivity in trauma-informed services,  including:



Never Give Up: A Complex Trauma Video by Youth for Youth features a diverse ensemble of actual youth complex trauma survivors who relate the systemic challenges that they have faced, including poverty, prejudice and systemic trauma and racism.

This article originally appeared on, a comprehensive repository of information and resources on complex traumatic stress sponsored and maintained by the Foundation Trust. The website’s mission is to increase understanding of complex trauma, including what it is, how it affects people, and ways to reverse its effects on mind, body, and spirit.