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Trauma Reactions in Social Work Students: Increasing Awareness of PTSD and Self-Care Through the PTSD Coach Application

Jones, Toya S (2021) Trauma Reactions in Social Work Students: Increasing Awareness of PTSD and Self-Care Through the PTSD Coach Application. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Research supports that social work (SW) students may experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms in response to course material, pedagogical practices, field practicum experiences, racial trauma, lack of PTSD knowledge and decreased self-care awareness. As a result, a neurological impact on their limbic system causes the frontal lobe to shut down, activating the autonomic nervous system’s acute stress reaction to SW content resembling traumatic events (triggers) in a fight, flight, or freeze response. Research indicates that trauma reactions are a barrier to encoding new memories and an impediment to learning pertinent SW information. A substantial body of research indicates that PTSD education and self-care awareness reduce PTSD symptoms; however, self-care practice is often underutilized. This study aimed to a) increase student psychoeducation of PTSD, and b) increase student self-care awareness through the Learn and Manage Symptoms sections of the PTSD Coach application. The evidence-based, widely used app was created by the Department of Veterans Affairs and is proven to reduce PTSD symptoms while increasing self-care and PTSD knowledge. During the eight-week study, a ten-item pre-test, and post-test comparison assessed SW students’ PTSD knowledge (fourteen participants) and self-care awareness (twelve participants). During the second phase of the study, a weekly two-item Likert scale asked students if they used the app and if so, how helpful was it in reducing their distress. The study was inconclusive in drawing statistically significant conclusions due to the small sample size. Insignificant improvements in post-test scores and declining participation indicate that students failed to use the PTSD Coach app. However, results slightly show a correlation between using the PTSD app and reducing SW students’ distress. Future efforts should focus on increasing students’ motivation to practice self-care by incorporating assignments and lessons into the SW course curriculum. Such content would act as a reminder to SW students that self-care a) mitigates the emotional and cognitive effects of trauma and b) strengthens their mental and physical well-being.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Jones, Toya Stoyaj@pitt.edutoyaj
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKerr, Mary
Committee MemberNelson, Melissa
Committee ChairGallen, Robert
Date: 31 August 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 June 2021
Approval Date: 31 August 2021
Submission Date: 14 July 2021
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 89
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Psychology in Education
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD neurological impact trauma self-care increase student self-care PTSD Coach app social work students increasing social work student motivation for self-care
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2021 14:47
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2021 14:47


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