Reimagine Conference Sessions

Building Resilience in Trauma Affected Communities: Rev. Paul Abernathy


Adversity’s Gift: Brenda Phillips

This session will explore three essential steps to building resilience after trauma, drawing on the latest research in psychology, neuroscience, and personal growth. Participants will demonstrate a deeper understanding of the impact of trauma on the mind and body, as well as practical tools for navigating adversity and building resilience.


Girls on the Brink: Raising Emotionally Healthy Girls: Donna Jackson Nakazawa

From award-winning journalist and author of GIRLS ON THE BRINK, CHILDHOOD DISRUPTED, and THE ANGEL AND THE ASSASSIN: a new and important talk for parents, educators, and practitioners, exploring the causes of the mental health epidemic facing girls today – and revelatory new strategies to help girls thrive.

Our girls are simply not okay. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that 1 in 3 teenage girls have seriously considered suicide, and 57 percent report feeling “persistently sad or hopeless.” One in 3 adolescent girls also report symptoms of major depression. Rates of suicide attempts rose 51 percent among girls in the past year alone, compared to 4 percent in boys.

And this data is backed up by the experiences of those who care for and about girls. As anyone on the front lines will tell you, our daughters, students, and clients are more anxious and prone to depression, anxiety, and self-harming than ever before. But until recently we haven’t had the science to explain why this is happening now.

At last, we have a roadmap to help them. The latest findings from the annals of neuroscience offer us surprising and valuable new insights. In this lecture, Donna deftly braids together this latest research to show why so many girls today are struggling – and how we can help them thrive even in troubled times. She delves deep into:

  • The top 10 things girls tell Donna they wish the adults in their lives knew; based on her interviews with hundreds of girls at events around the country.
  • Revelatory new science on how unrelenting stress affects girls’ health and development in unique ways – and why we’re just learning about this science now.
  • How and why chronic stress during the critical developmental window of puberty can ramp up girls’ stress machinery in body and brain in ways that derail mental health.
  • Why this can translate into double and triple the rates of anxiety and depression in girls compared to boys at the onset of puberty.
  • What it means for girls’ well-being and emotional resiliency that puberty is happening earlier today, before adolescence.
  • The critical importance of social safety and how social media interferes with girls’ interior sense of felt safety at a crucial juncture in development.
  • Why excessive social media use is so harmful during puberty, especially for girls.
  • What it means for girls’ mental health that they no longer experience a period of pressure-free exploration during the “in-between years” of 7 – 13.
  • How girls’ experiences and the unique pressures they face today are triggering a mismatch between our deep evolutionary wiring and modern life.

Lastly, Donna answers the question that all parents, teachers, and practitioners want to know: What can we do to help girls thrive? The good news is this: the science that’s shown us the why has also shown us how we can solve this epidemic. Puberty is a time during which the female brain is highly flexible and responsive to specific kinds of support and powerful new approaches. Donna lays out science-backed “antidote” strategies to help girls flourish in our troubled times. This illuminating talk provides a new playbook for how we—parents, families, and communities—can ensure a healthy emotional life for all of our girls.


The Broken Spirit: Experiencing Trauma and the Search for Resilience:  Dr. Carol Dahlen

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can have life-long and egregious impacts on children.  Caregivers or other adults can compromise the physiological, psychological, and emotional development of children. Other circumstances of vulnerability and trauma erode children’s well-being, such as poverty, neighborhood violence, discrimination, and being removed from their homes.  Chronic patterns of maltreatment potentially cause deficits in the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of children and young adults.  This ripple effect produces problematic behaviors in schools and taxes an already inadequate care-support system.  The myriad adversities that plague our children and youth are not just about the fatalities, the broken bones, and the bruises – but the broken spirits – the fractured essence of who they are and the imperative of building and sustaining resilience.  Participants will be able to identify the varied circumstances of vulnerability that may lead to trauma exposure, recognize the potential impact of traumatic experiences, and define various forms of resilience.


Trauma Informed Care with Older Adults: Eve Escalante

This session will focus on trauma-informed care delivery with the older adult population.  There will be time spent discussing the basics of older adulthood and trauma.  We will spend time on the prevalence of trauma in older adults as well as what puts older adults at risk of trauma and re-traumatization. We will discuss best practices for addressing trauma with older adults on both a systems level and “dos and don’ts” for responding to disclosures.  We will also discuss vicarious trauma and mitigation strategies in the direct service professional. Participants will be able to: 1. Summarize common themes/concerns in the older adult population; 2. Define trauma; 3. Identify how trauma applies to older adults, including risks and manifestations; 4. Apply concepts of trauma-informed care to work with older adults on both a systems and micro level; 5. Recognize themes of vicarious trauma and/or compassion fatigue in the direct service professional and give examples of how to manage


Building Resilience with Nature: Heidi Augsburger

The impact of environmental stressors on human health and well-being is becoming increasingly apparent. However, research has shown that exposure to nature can significantly positively impact our physical and mental health and our ability to cope with stress. This presentation will provide practical strategies for incorporating green spaces into our daily lives. This presentation is expected to: 1.  Increase awareness of the benefits of nature for resilience building; 2. Provide practical strategies for individuals and communities to incorporate nature into daily routines. 3. Inspire individuals and communities to act to enhance their access to nature. Nature offers a powerful tool for building resilience in the face of environmental stressors. Incorporating green spaces into our daily routines can enhance physical and mental health and improve our ability to cope with stress. This speech/presentation will provide valuable insights and practical strategies for individuals and communities to harness the power of nature to build resilience.


Employee Mental Health: Whose Responsibility Is It Really? : Katie O’Malley

Since early 2020, we have collectively moved through a global health crisis with rippling emotional, physical, and cognitive impacts that forever changed how we work, play, lead, love, parent, and partner. In 2021, 75% of American workers reported experiencing at least one symptom of a mental health condition (up from 59% in 2019), a statistic resulting directly from the trauma caused during the pandemic. With numbers like these, we must stop viewing employee mental health as an individual issue and instead address it as a retention problem for employers to solve collaboratively. Achieving a solution requires leaders to understand the impact varying workplace dimensions have on employee mental health and how mental health influences employee engagement and attrition. From a bottom-line perspective, the business case for prioritizing mental health in the workplace is clear, but the path forward feels hazy for many. By engaging in this experiential talk, leaders will learn how to cultivate a team culture that increases engagement and retention by eliminating leadership practices that derail employee mental health and enacting a new toolkit of strategies to improve employee well-being and satisfaction.


Addressing the Needs of Trauma Survivors Through Community Collaboration: Melissa Arvin

Violence and the resulting trauma continue to plague our communities, and bringing resources to the survivors left in the wake of tragedy is essential to their recovery and ability to move forward. Often, groups and individuals tasked with aiding survivors of violence operate in silos and without knowing what others in the community can and would contribute. This session will discuss determining what survivors in your area need, how to seek out resources and other stakeholders to close gaps and find the champions you need to sustain the work.


Poverty Simulation Experience: Anna Schoon

An immersive journey that offers participants a glimpse into the challenges faced by individuals and families living in poverty. During this eye-opening one-hour “month,” participants step into the shoes of someone navigating the complex and often overwhelming world of poverty.

Participants are assigned a unique role and family profile, each with its own set of circumstances, responsibilities, and limitations. These roles might include a single parent, an elderly couple on a fixed income, a young adult trying to support siblings or other scenarios. Each role comes with specific challenges and goals that reflect the diverse realities of those living in poverty.

The simulation is divided into four “weeks,” each lasting 15 minutes, representing a month in each assigned character’s life. Participants are charged to manage basic needs such as housing, food, healthcare, and transportation within this time frame. However, resources will be limited, and participants will face unexpected events that mirror the unpredictable nature of life for those in poverty.

Participants will interact with various stations, each representing an essential service or resource. These stations might include a school, an employment office, a bank, a grocery store, a community health clinic, and a social services agency. Participants must navigate long lines, bureaucratic red tape, and the challenge of making tough decisions about allocating limited resources.

Throughout the simulation, people might experience:

  1. Financial Stress: Balancing a meager budget and prioritizing essential expenses can be incredibly stressful. Every dollar spent on one necessity means less for another.
  2. Limited Resources: Food, transportation, and healthcare services scarcity can force difficult decisions and trade-offs.
  3. Social Stigma: Interactions with various institutions can highlight the stigma and biases often faced by those in poverty, affecting self-esteem and mental well-being.
  4. Barriers to Education and Employment: Navigating educational and job opportunities when resources are limited can shed light on the cycle of poverty that makes advancement difficult.
  5. Unforeseen Crises: Unexpected events like medical emergencies or sudden changes in employment can disrupt even the most carefully crafted plans.
  6. Community Support: Participants may come to rely on one another and form support networks, showcasing the importance of community in challenging circumstances.

At the end of the simulation, there is a debriefing session to discuss participants’ feelings, insights, and reactions. This reflection provides an opportunity to deepen understanding and empathy for those facing poverty and to consider potential avenues for change and support in real life.

The Poverty Simulation Experience aims to foster empathy, awareness, and understanding of the complex challenges individuals and families face in poverty. By immersing themselves in this simulated reality, participants can gain valuable insights that shape their perspectives and actions in the quest for a more equitable society.


Let’s Talk About It – ACEs and Their Impact on Mental Health: Andrea Sherwin

This session will provide a working knowledge of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and their short- and long-term impacts on mental health, including information on comorbidity. An outline of types of ACES will be shared, along with the ACES quiz, for better understanding and private personalization of content. The session will explore early intervention and prevention’s important role in mitigating risks associated with ACES in our community and will also discuss resilience factors. The session will also touch on the disproportionate impact on communities of color. This session is for anyone newer to the topic of ACES. Sherwin,


What does “Domestic Violence” mean to you? : Ryan Elinkowski

This session will explore the dynamics of domestic violence, challenging widely held perceptions about what constitutes “violence” and exploring strategies that community and service providers can utilize when assisting survivors.  Tools and resources will be provided to encourage ease of use and application in the field, and real-life examples and scenarios will be shared.


  • Opening Discussion: Exploring interpretations and perceptions of Domestic Violence
  • Presentation: A Trauma-Informed Care Approach to serving Survivors 
  • Activity: Working with High-Lethality Clients (Lethality Assessment to be shared)
  • Conclusion: A Video Message from St. Jude House Survivor Advisory Council
  • Q/A (if time permits)

The Journey of Overcoming: Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse: Kelly Vates

Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is a prevalent problem in the United States associated with many long-term psychological, behavioral, social, and physical effects in women and men. Much research has focused on how adults cope with the results of CSA.
However, many individuals not only cope with the effects of sexual trauma but engage in dynamic healing processes that include growth and recovery. This workshop, led by a Survivor Leader and will incorporate personal insights on victimization & healing, will explore the CSA Healing Model as a stage model that suggests healing is a dynamic and progressive trajectory that involves four “stages” that build upon one another. We will also discuss the importance of an individual’s self-identity on the “healing spectrum” to build resiliency and overcome sexual trauma.


Sam Now Film Screening and Facilitated Discussion: Elaine Spicer

When his mother suddenly disappears, Sam Harkness and his Seattle family are shocked and heartbroken. Tracking cryptic clues of her whereabouts years later, Sam and his half-brother head out on a West Coast road trip to try and find her. But solving the mystery of her disappearance is only the beginning of their story.

Through Sam’s 25-year quest for answers, the film explores intergenerational trauma and the turning points of family dysfunction and healing. As the narrative unfolds, we witness Sam coming of age as he tries to break free from a traumatic event that has been replicated in his family for generations. Sobering revelations of personal growth blend with playful home movies and vibrant experimental filmmaking by brother and director Reed Harkness. A rare vulnerability reveals their journey as relatable to the modern American family.

As he grows up, we are there with Sam, immersed in a unique archive of vintage films, home videos, intimate family interviews, and scenes from over the decades. We see him take a 2,000-mile road trip in search of answers. We learn of his mother Jois’ difficult past and why she left her kids. We feel the ripple effects of these individual decisions on family members, including his brother Jared, father Randy, and grandma Doris. And we discover the intertwined coping mechanisms that have contributed to a cycle of abandonment and avoidance.

The film balances heavy themes and emotional reckonings with youthful energy and an optimistic spirit. These vivid moments serve as a contextual lens for the audience to reflect on their personal lives, catalyzing open communication and fostering honest understanding in our relationships.


Resilience Film Screening and Facilitated Discussion: Elaine Spicer

The original research was controversial, but the findings revealed a generation’s most important public health findings. RESILIENCE is a one-hour documentary that delves into the science of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the birth of a new movement to treat and prevent Toxic Stress. Now understood to be one of the leading causes of everything from heart disease and cancer to substance abuse and depression, extremely stressful experiences in childhood can alter brain development and have lifelong effects on health and behavior.

However, as experts and practitioners profiled in RESILIENCE are proving, what’s predictable is preventable. These physicians, educators, social workers, and communities are daring to talk about the effects of divorce, abuse, and neglect. And they’re using cutting-edge science to help the next generation break the cycles of adversity and disease.


Broken Places Film Screening and Facilitated Discussion: Elaine Spicer

BROKEN PLACES explores why some children are severely damaged by early adversity while others can thrive.

We can dramatically illustrate how early trauma shaped their lives as adults by revisiting some abused and neglected children we profiled decades ago. BROKEN PLACES interweaves these longitudinal narratives with commentary from a few nationally renowned experts to help viewers better understand the devastating impact of childhood adversity and the inspiring characteristics of resilience.


Paper Tigers Film Screening and Facilitated Discussion: Dr. Carol Dahlen

More than two decades ago, two respected researchers, clinical physician Dr. Vincent Felitti and CDC epidemiologist Robert Anda, published the game-changing Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. It revealed a troubling but irrefutable phenomenon: the more traumatic experiences the respondents had as children (such as physical and emotional abuse and neglect), the more likely they were to develop health problems later in life—issues such as cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. To complicate matters, there was also a troubling correlation between adverse childhood experiences and the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse, unprotected sex, and poor diet. Combined, the study’s results painted a staggering portrait of the price our children pay for growing up in unsafe environments while fueling the fire of some of society’s most significant challenges.

However, this study contains the seed of hope: all of the above-mentioned risk factors—behavioral and physiological—can be offset by one dependable and caring adult. It doesn’t need to be the mother or the father. It doesn’t even need to be a close or distant relative.

More often than not, that stable, caring adult is a teacher.

It is here, at the crossroads of at-risk teens and trauma-informed care, that Paper Tigers takes root. Set within and around the campus of Lincoln Alternative High School in the rural community of Walla Walla, Washington, Paper Tigers asks the following questions: What does it mean to be a trauma-informed school? And how do you educate teens whose childhood experiences have left them with a brain and body ill-suited to learn?

In search of clear and honest answers, Paper Tigers hinges on a remarkable collaboration between the subject and the filmmaker. Armed with their cameras and voices, the teens of Paper Tigers offer raw but valuable insight into the hearts and minds of teens pushing back against the specter of a brutal childhood.

Answers emerge against the harsh reality of truancy, poor grades, emotional pain, and physical violence. The answers take work. Nor can one deduce a one-size-fits-all solution to a trauma-informed education. But there is no denying something subtle and powerful at work between teacher and student alike: the quiet persistence of love.


Empowering Change: Turning Knowledge into Action – Conference Closing Open Space Session: Anna Schoon

Join us for the culminating event of our conference, where we embark on a dynamic and collaborative journey to harness the transformative power of Open Space Technology. In this Closing Session, we will shift gears from absorbing knowledge to actively designing personalized action plans that leverage the insights gained throughout the conference.

Session Highlights:

As the conference draws to a close, we recognize that the real impact lies in our actions beyond these walls. Guided by the principles of Open Space Technology, this session will provide a structured yet flexible environment for participants to self-organize around the topics and themes that resonate most with them.

Key Elements:

  1. Reflection: We’ll start by collectively reflecting on the most inspiring moments, key takeaways, and transformative insights gained during the conference. This will set the stage for focused discussions and ideation.
  2. Topic Generation: Participants will have the opportunity to propose and present topics they are passionate about – ideas they believe hold the potential to effect positive change in their respective spheres of influence.
  3. Collaborative Sessions: Participants can choose which discussions to join once the topics are presented. This self-organizing process ensures that everyone engages with subjects that resonate with their goals.
  4. Action Planning: Participants will collaboratively craft actionable plans within these breakout discussions, setting concrete goals and defining steps to apply their newfound knowledge.
  5. Cross-pollination: As sessions conclude, participants can share the distilled essence of their discussions with the larger group, fostering cross-pollination of ideas and approaches.
  6. Commitment and Accountability: The session will conclude with each participant committing to their chosen action plan, and strategies for accountability will be discussed. This collective commitment will serve as a foundation for continued collaboration post-conference.

This session bridges the gap between theory and action. Together, we will shape the future by translating insights into real-world change, creating a ripple effect that extends far beyond the conference walls. Your voice, ideas, and commitment matter – let’s embark on this transformative journey together.