Documentary Offers Insight Into LBUSD’s Trauma-informed Movement in Education

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School can be stressful for even the healthiest of children. But, for those children who have experienced trauma or continue to live in adverse environments, the stress can be too much to handle.

In an effort to create more nurturing learning environments for all, The Guidance Center (TGC) has partnered with Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) assistant superintendent of School Support Services, Dr. Tiffany Brown, and Beach High School principal, Troy Bennett, to develop a trauma-informed training program for school staff and teachers.

The pilot program is named It’s About T.I.M.E. (Trauma-Informed Movement in Education), which is based on the premise that children equate quality time with love and points to several of its core principles. As the first of its kind to be implemented within LBUSD, It’s About T.I.M.E. launches this fall at Beach High School, located on the Long Beach School for Adults campus at 3701 E. Willow Street in Long Beach. The school was selected for the program due to its population of at-risk students.

“The children in our community experience all levels of trauma. In our roles as educators and school therapists, we have the unique opportunity to surround them with safe, patient relationships that can positively impact their lives and ultimately the surrounding community,” said Patricia Costales, LCSW, CEO of TGC. “Our hope is that, by shifting the lens in which we see these students and their behaviors, we can empower them to learn, graduate and continue down a successful path.”

The goal of the program is to support and encourage staff in understanding that many children have endured ongoing, significant life stressors and traumatic experiences, which cause their brains to biologically re-wire themselves to remain in an extremely stress-reactive state beyond their conscious control. Outwardly, this is expressed as problematic behaviors commonly seen in schools such as inattention, impulsivity, lack of motivation, defiance and anger outbursts. This training will equip school staff with the tools to respond to these types of behaviors using the trauma-informed approach.

The approach focuses on two core principles indicated in the program’s name: building trusting relationships between students and school staff, and providing appropriate sensory-based soothing activities for stress in and outside the classroom. By establishing bonds with these students, staff and teachers are able to reduce their stress and create a safe environment in which they can learn. Providing appropriate sensory-based soothing activities for stress – activities as simple as allowing a student to stretch next to their desk or encouraging them to take a walk with the school counselor and talk through their struggles – allows them to engage in sensory activities that help their brain better regulate their emotions and behaviors.

The science behind the program is based on the evidence-based practices of Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) and Neurosequential Model in Education (NME) developed by world-renown child psychiatrist, Dr. Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., founder and senior fellow of the ChildTrauma Academy. Dr. Perry worked in collaboration with Steve Graner, M.S., NME project director, to develop NME.

One of The Guidance Center’s school-based clinicians, Nathan Swaringen, LCSW, has been trained in NME and led training prior to the start of the school year. Swaringen continues to support and serve as a collaborator, consultant, model and instructor to Beach staff throughout the academic school year.

“While the neuroscience behind this program may seem technical, the application of the trauma-informed approach is simple and does not involve complicated psychological techniques,” said Swaringen. “It all comes down to surrounding these children with as many healthy, loving relationships as possible, which in turn creates an environment that is proven to heal. We’re looking forward to collaborating with Beach staff.”

The Guidance Center will continue to work closely with Beach over the course of the 2016-2017 academic school year to track overall campus and individual student progress, with the ultimate goal to bring the trauma-informed program to all schools within LBUSD.

“The collaboration between The Guidance Center and Beach High School is allowing school staff to have first-hand knowledge about the effects of trauma, and how to support students through the challenges that they bring to school while creating a positive, supported learning environment,” said Brown. “What we know about good teachers is that, when they have information, they use it to help. The Guidance Center team is adding a layer of knowledge for our teachers that will ultimately help every student.”

On Oct. 12, the community will have the opportunity to experience how this program can transform lives at a free screening of the documentary called Paper Tigers, hosted by The Guidance Center. The film, directed by James Redford and executive produced by Karen Pritzker, follows a year in the life of an alternative high school in Walla Walla, WA, that applied the trauma-informed approach, and in the process has become a promising model for how to break the cycles of poverty, violence and disease that affect families.

The film will be screened at The Art Theatre on 4th Street’s Retro Row in Long Beach. Doors will open at 7 p.m. Graner will speak before the film and participate in a panel discussion with Swaringen after the screening. The public is encouraged to reserve their free ticket at

The Guidance Center is a major community mental health provider offering comprehensive treatment to disadvantaged children and their families. Through The Guidance Center’s School-Based program, therapists work onsite at more than 20 schools within LBUSD, 17 schools within Paramount Unified School District and seven schools within Lynwood Unified School District.

About The Guidance Center
Established in 1946, The Guidance Center provides comprehensive mental health treatment to more than 3,000 children and families in the communities of Long Beach, Lynwood, Compton, Paramount, San Pedro and Avalon annually. The Guidance Center offers individual, group and family therapy, crisis intervention, case management, community education and outreach, and intensive mental health treatment. Headquartered in Long Beach, The Guidance Center also has clinics in Compton and San Pedro. For more information on The Guidance Center, please visit

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