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The Lesley Institute for Trauma Sensitivity (LIFTS) strives to promote the development of safe and supportive educational environments, using a whole-child, whole-school, trauma-sensitive approaches. We offer:  

  • Graduate level courses leading to a certificate in trauma and learning  
  • Professional development for school communities 
  • Executive coaching for administrators and school leadership teams
  • Research on developing trauma sensitive learning environments   

We partner with diverse schools locally, nationally, and globally. In these partnerships, we have witnessed remarkable outcomes that include fewer office referrals, fewer suspensions, stronger classroom communities, and better support networks for educators.

LIFTS, a part of Lesley's Center for Inclusive and Special Education, is directed by Dr. Sal Terrasi.

classroom of elementary students sitting around a table


Each of the following five courses provide three graduate level credits, and are offered to professional educators (teachers, counselors, psychologists, nurses, specialists, and administrators) at a substantial discount. This discount is made possible due to generous funding from the Oak Foundation, which commits its resources to address issues of global social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged.

The first four courses comprise a certificate program in trauma & learning. Courses must be taken in sequence, and are offered in a variety of formats, including on-site delivery in your district, remote (synchronous and asynchronous) 8-week delivery, and an intensive low-residency institute format, which combines weekend study with continuing online work.

For more information, contact Merlyn Mayhew, Assistant Director, at

  • 1. The Impact of Trauma on Learning: An Overview

    This course examines the impact of traumatic experience on student learning (both academic and social / emotional) and provides a structured approach to individual and school wide interventions. The biological, environmental, and sociocultural aspects of traumatic experience will be presented, and participants will analyze the effects of their work with students impacted by trauma on their own well being (secondary trauma). 

  • 2. The Impact of Trauma on Learning: Classroom and Student Supports

    Trauma affects self regulation, social skills and a child’s sense of health and well being, along with interfering with more traditional academic skills that require language, memory and executive function. This course will address ways to promote these non-academic and academic competencies for students impacted by trauma, including which competencies can be incorporated into the learning flow (as they benefit all children) and which are best taught with an individual support plan.

  • 3. The Impact of Trauma on Learning: Creating Trauma-Sensitive Schools

    This course is designed to expand knowledge of trauma, its impacts, and the process for building trauma sensitive environments through examination of the underlying change theory, processes, and tools needed to establish trauma sensitivity. Participants demonstrate their understanding by either developing a plan for guiding the creation of a trauma-sensitive school or conducting research grounded in trauma-informed inquiry.

  • 4. The Impact of Trauma on Learning: Action Research and Seminar

    Students demonstrate their understanding of the attributes of trauma-sensitivity by working together to design and conduct research that assesses the outcomes of efforts to improve trauma-sensitivity in classrooms, schools, or other learning environments.

  • 5. Racism, Equity, and Trauma

    In this course, participants will explore the intersection of race, equity, and trauma in hope of creating safe, supportive, and trauma sensitive environments. Educators working with students who experience systemic racism and inequities have additional Adverse Childhood Experiences, raising their risk for related learning impacts. Participants will study impacts of systemic racism, implicit biases, and micro-aggressions, to develop action plans and support whole school inclusive communities for every child to connect and thrive.

Executive Coaching

We provide executive coaching to district and school leaders, as well as community-based staff, to support the process of change toward trauma sensitivity. 

  • Details on Executive Coaching

    Executive coaching is designed as a collaborative change process. Together, the LIFTS coach and the organizational leadership develop a schedule and tailored plan to meet identified needs. This integrated team approach often includes principals, assistant principals, district administrators, wraparound service directors, school-based paraprofessionals, and staff of community-based organizations.

    Typically, coaching sequences follow an agreed upon plan that includes the scope and cost of coaching services. Once finalized, this plan is outlined in a memorandum of understanding.

    Our LIFTS coaches have a deep understanding of educational, cultural, psychological, and political factors that affect the learning environment. Possible focal points for executive coaching include:

    • Leading school or district change initiatives
    • Assistance with data collection and analysis
    • Monitoring and assessing progress of initiatives

    For more information, contact: Salvatore Terrasi,, (617) 699-8769.


See our Lesley Institute for Trauma Sensitivity resources page to find tools, articles, and more. 

Where We've Been
A list of towns and districts in and outside of Massachusetts where we have offered LIFTS courses and workshops.
LIFTS courses have validated for me and our faculty how important it is to look at the whole child. They have helped us to move the conversation toward relationship-building in the school.
Ruby Maestas , Principal, Carver Elementary School, Carver, Massachusetts
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