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Childhood trauma, with its diverse causes and profound consequences, has risen to the awareness of educators across the country. Lesley University is committed to serving educators who seek a nuanced understanding of the effects of trauma on learning—and to the cultivation of safe, supportive classrooms where children feel seen, heard, and understood. In such classrooms, a child is free to take emotional and cognitive risks, while experiencing the uninhibited joy of learning.

Since 2010, the Lesley Institute for Trauma Sensitivity (LIFTS) has been helping school staff in Massachusetts and beyond to deepen their knowledge about childhood trauma and to introduce practices that significantly lessen its impact.

To advance the development of trauma sensitive environments, the Institute for Trauma Sensitivity, in collaboration with Massachusetts Advocates for Children’s Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (MAC/TLPI), works directly with school districts to help educators understand the dynamics of acute and chronic trauma, its adverse effects on learning, and how trauma sensitive schools can benefit all children. LIFTS is directed by Dr. Sal Terrasi.


classroom of elementary students sitting around a table

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.

The Lesley Institute for Trauma Sensitivity is supported by 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.

We provide two key services: a graduate-level, four-course curriculum and executive coaching. If you're interested in any of these offerings, contact us at spedcenter@lesley.edu


The following four courses make up a graduate certificate program in Trauma and Learning. Individual courses may also be taken for graduate level credit.

Courses are appropriate for teachers, school psychologists and health practitioners, school administrators, and staff of community-based organizations/agencies. You'll benefit from the experience of our LIFTS instructors, who are seasoned educators and school leaders deeply experienced with the course content and its practical application to learning environments.

Take these courses in an eight-week format at a site near your school or district. Another option is to take courses in a low-residency institute format, which combines weekend study  with continuing online work. One participant called the residency "a truly life-changing program." Another said it was "inspirational and empowering on a topic that can be daunting and overwhelming.”

  • 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). 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Executive Coaching

We provide executive coaching to district/school leaders as well as other school and community-based staff who aim to create environments that are increasingly trauma-sensitive.

  • Details on Executive Coaching

    Examples include principals and assistant principals, other district/school administrators (e.g., wraparound service directors), school-based paraprofessionals, and staff of community-based organizations/agencies.

    We’ll collaborate with you to develop a schedule and content plan tailored to meet the needs of particular districts, schools, and other organizations. Typically, coaching sequences are shorter and more intensive than regular LIFTS courses. The cost of each plan is dependent on its context. Our team and the coaching recipients agree on a plan that includes cost of services. This plan is outlined in a memorandum of understanding that is signed by both parties.

    Coaching is provided by Sal Terrasi, director, and Joel Ristuccia, lead instructor/mentor. They 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, sterrasi@lesley.edu, (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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