Advocacy & Policy

NAEA Position Statement on Reaching Learners Who Have Experienced Trauma

[Adopted April 2020]

NAEA believes that visual art and design can help reach learners that experience trauma. Engagement in art helps learners develop coping strategies, create a sense of control and empowerment, and build resilience. Visual art, design, and media arts education enables learners to clarify and communicate perspectives, transform personal narratives, and imagine new possibilities when guided by effective art educators, trained in trauma-informed practices.(1)

NAEA acknowledges that art educators cultivate authentic connections and establish consistent expectations with learners in order to:

  • create a safe, welcoming, and caring environment for expression.
  • communicate feelings and experiences in a variety of productive ways, addressing social and emotional skills.
  • develop stability.
  • foster resilience.
  • strengthen protective factors (2) to help learners cope with adversity.
  • empower learner agency.
  • promote playful experimentation, flexibility, and purpose.
  • encourage inner strength and a vision for each individual’s future.

NAEA supports ongoing professional development for art educators to recognize, understand, and respond to diverse trauma (known or unknown) using best practices. It is the responsibility of employers to provide support for educators related to the impact of students’ trauma on teachers, such as secondary trauma (3) and/or compassion fatigue.(4)

NAEA emphasizes the necessity of defined boundaries and obligations within learning environments that clearly explain the role of the art educator, as well as procedures and resources to address the needs of learners requiring assistance from other services and professionals.

NAEA believes that the employer of an art educator has a responsibility to provide training that communicates the protocols, rules, and laws related to reporting events, crises, or conditions that may place a learner at risk.


1 A trauma-informed practice is defined as “an organizational structure and treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma. Trauma Informed Practice also emphasizes physical, psychological and emotional safety for both patients and providers, and helps survivors rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.” American Academy of Pediatrics:

2 Protective factors are “conditions or attributes in individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities.” Child Welfare Information Gateway:

3 Secondary trauma is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network:

4 Compassion fatigue is the “mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that comes from working with people who are in constant states of distress or trauma.” Mindful Schools:


Art for Children Experiencing Psychological Trauma: A Guide for Art Educators and School-Based Professionals, Adrienne D. Hunter, Donalyn Heise, and Beverley H. Johns (Editors), Routledge, April 2018.

The Foundation for Art & Healing and the Unlonely Project, Harvard University.

Helping Teachers Manage the Weight of Trauma: Understanding and Mitigating the Effects of Secondary Traumatic Stress for Educators, Jessica Lander, September 2018.

“I Didn’t Know It Had a Name”: Secondary Traumatic Stress and Educators, Tim Walker, National Education Association, 2019.

“Order Out of Chaos: An Arts-Based Approach to Counteract Violence,” Lisa Kay and Alice Arnold, 2014, Art Education, 67(3), 31–36.

Paper Tigers, James Redford’s movie about a school’s approach in dealing with trauma.

Relationship, Responsibility, and Regulation: Trauma-Invested Practices for Fostering Resilient Learners, Kristin Van Marter Souers with Pete Hall.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL):

Teaching to Strengths: Supporting Students Living With Trauma, Violence, and Chronic Stress, Debbie Zacarian, Lourdes Alvarez-Ortiz, and Judie Haynes. National Child Traumatic Stress Network:

Trauma-Informed Care Resource Guide, Crisis Prevention Institute, 2017. Crisis Prevention Institute:

Trauma-Informed Strategies to Use in Your Classroom:

Trauma-Sensitive Schools: A Whole-School Approach:

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