Skip to content
  • image of depressed woman
  • image of a crying child
  • image of disabled solider

The online Postgraduate Trauma Certificate Program (PGTC), provides a critical overview of trauma, as participants are immersed in cutting edge knowledge about treating trauma, trauma theory, and neurophysiology. Participants learn to critically assess conceptualizations of trauma and traumatic impact, and apply current principles of intervention and program planning, while considering the larger social, cultural forces at work that shape both exposure to and recovery from traumatic experiences. The PGTC, is for anyone with a master's degree or higher in fields of human service or allied health and an interest in increasing their knowledge about trauma and trauma treatment.

The PGTC is an online certificate program that consists of three (3) modules. Each module is comprised of nine (9) CE credits. Modules may be taken a la carte or in conjunction with one another, to earn the PGTC. Once the PGTC is started, each participant will have one (1) year to complete the entirety of the Certificate. The cost for each module is $350 and is payable online at the time of registration. The modules are:

  • Neurophysiology
    This module contains five (5) Parts and each part has associated readings. The parts of this Module include: Genetics, Epigenetics, Neurobiology, Stress and Hormones, and Resilience.
  • Trauma Theory and Neurobiological Implications of Traumatic Experiences
    This module covers trauma theory that is used to provide evidence based treatment. The course also includes some of the most recent findings regarding long-term neurobiological effects that result for traumatic experiences.
  • Treatment of Trauma
    This module includes the following five (5) sections:
    1. Safety and Vicarious Traumatization
    2. Identifying Trauma & Assessment
    3. Trauma Focused CBT, Psychoeducation & Affect Regulation
    4. Cognitive Intervention & Emotional Processing
    5. Mindfulness & Trauma

Each module is available online, is user-friendly and self-paced and consists of videos, voice-over PowerPoint-style presentations, downloadable articles, handouts, and quizzes.


The 21st Century has seen a different scale of tragedies (9/11 and Katrina are just two examples); use of the internet to engage in sexual exploitation; immigrants coming from countries wreaked by war, genocide, sexual slavery, and human-made/natural disasters such as tsunamis, cyclones, and earthquakes.

National prevalence rates indicate that over 50% of individuals in the general population experience at least one traumatic event in their lives (Kessler, Sonnega, Bromet, Hughes, & Nelson, 1995). Approximately 6 million people in the United States alone are diagnosed with PTSD and Acute Stress Disorders occur in up to 50% of trauma-exposed individuals depending upon the type of trauma experienced.

Those who experience trauma also have a higher prevalence of substance abuse and depression and are at greater risk for negative health outcomes such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and premature death (CDC, 2010).

Most mental health and health professionals do not have professional training in trauma. Given the high prevalence of trauma-exposed individuals and trauma related disorders, it is critical that those working in the mental and physical health fields understand the trauma process and have the prerequisite knowledge and skills to help individuals address and recover from traumatic events.



Here's what just a few of our Postgraduate Trauma Certificate Program graduates have to say about the program:

"With so much new information available it can be hard to keep up on your own. The lectures and readings that make up the Trauma Certificate were not just relevant and up to date, but interesting and compelling."
-Mitzi Hines, LCSW

"The Neuroscience Module has given me the tools to talk more in-depth about the importance of healthy relationships, genetics, epigenetics, and brain development. I especially believe that understanding Neuroscience is paramount for our field when evaluating and modifying current therapeutic practices, programs, and policies."
--Maribeth Gambill, LSSW, LCSW

"I enjoyed the Trauma Theory Module. I think this in-depth look at both classical theories as well as newer concepts is important for any trauma clinician, both for use in practice but also for psychoeducational purposes."
--Waheeda Saif, LICSW

"I appreciated the balance of scholarly journal articles coupled with practitioner-based best practices [in the Trauma Treatment Module]. This module definitely enhanced my knowledge of trauma. The knowledge gained will also positively impact how I train my practitioners and how I engage with clients."
--Nicole Cobb, EdD


Learning Outcomes

Treatment of Trauma Module

Instructor: Ashley Childers, MSW
Assistant Professor of Practice

The learners will be able to define countertransference, trauma, Adverse Childhood Experience, psychoeducation, bibliotherapy, cognitive interventions, emotional processing, mindfulness, anxiety and trauma disorders. They will come to understand secondary or vicarious traumatization. They will investigate self care and trauma stewardship and will look at the importance of safety planning. They will look at major types of trauma and its effects and treatment. They will consider trauma-based conceptual models. The will look at the treatment and recovery process. The learners will consider cognitive distortions, negative beliefs and thoughts and their alternatives. Learners will work through the trauma cycle and look at ways to break the cycle. They will also consider the significant components of treatment. Learners look at the skills and importance of mindfulness practices as well as the plasticity of the brain and creating new synapses. Learners will interact with ideas related to acute trauma reactions and reaction patterns. They will look at the DSM-5 and disorders listed there. They will look at a variety of phone apps that can be utilized in relation to trauma and reactions to trauma. (Course Outline)

Module Objectives

  1. To be able to define and identify countertransference
  2. To be able to identify the signs of secondary / vicarious traumatization
  3. To determine appropriate self-care / trauma stewardship activities for social workers
  4. To discover aspects of safety planning related to professional social work

Intermediate Level - Course fee $350.00 plus textbook

Trauma Theory and Neurobiological Implications of Traumatic Experiences Module

Instructor: Phyllis Thompson, PhD, LCSW
Clinical Associate Professor

The learners will gain knowledge about the evolution of the theories that drive our most empirically supported trauma treatments used today. Learners will look at both the short and long term neurobiological impacts that trauma has across the lifespan, including how traumatic events can manifest into problems decades after the experience. Learners will engage with the theoretical underpinnings and the processes that drive today's clinical practice. (Course Outline)

Module Objectives

  1. To recognize theoretical underpinnings and coping strategies that facilitate the onset and supports the maintenance of intrusive memories.
  2. To differentiate assumptions of different psychological theories of PTSD in order to apply appropriate interventions that will facilitate recovery.
  3. To identify neurobiological processes and the implications of trauma on symptoms, behavior, relationships, and health.

Intermediate Level - Course fee $350.00

Neurophysiology Module

Instructor: Terri Combs-Orme, PhD
The Urban Child Institute Endowed Professor

This module includes four sections: Review of basic genetics, epigenetics, neurobiology, and stress and hormones. The learners will gain some background knowledge in genetic science and human behavior. They will be able to define terms such as alleles, dominant traits, recessive traits, DNA, chromosomes and genes, SNPs, genotype and phenotype. Learners will consider the impact of genetic research on modern life. Learners will engage in learning about epigenesis, looking at the kinds of things that cause genes to be expressed. Learners will look at methylation and chromatin remodeling in relation to genetic expression. This module challenges social workers to think about the interaction between environmental conditions and genetic processes as they impact human behavior. The learners will be able to define basic terminology related to brain structure and actions. Learners will consider how the brain works and how it develops through the stages of growth and life. They will also look at brain plasticity and the ability to grow and change across the span of life. Learners will consider the impact of stress on living including the physiological implications of stress. They will look at homones and how stress causes the production or release of hormones in the body. (Course Outline)

Module Objectives

  1. To demonstrate an understanding of basic genetics.
  2. To be able to describe and compare theories on epigenetic changes and social work.
  3. To examine the impact of trauma on brain development.
  4. To examine the impact of stress on brain development.

Beginner and Intermediate Level - Course fee $350.00

These courses are offered under the auspice of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville College of Social Work. The courses are provided in a totally online asynchronous format and are available to MSSW graduates. Participants earn 9 CE credits for completion of each of the three courses. Certificates of completion, reflecting 9 CE credits, will be electronically available upon the completion of each module. A paper certificate will be mailed to each participant upon confirmation that all three PGTC modules were completed.

Click here to Register for a Postgraduate Trauma Certificate Module

Contact Elizabeth DeGeorge at (contact information is also available within the learning management system) with any questions about the certificate program or problems using the learning management system. Courses should be accessible for individuals with disabilities, but personal technical accommodation is also available upon request. Course evaluations may be accessed from within the learning management system upon completion of each course.

Note: No cancellations or refunds are regularly available. Special considerations will be received on a case by case basis.



The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.