Shame Competence for Trauma Informed Practitioners Training

Image by Hannah Mumby

Shame and Trauma

“Shame has ruled my whole life.” – Anonymous Trauma Survivor

“Trauma leads to shame. Trauma determines the content of shame. Shame pushes the body into a traumatic response. The more I learn about the two, the more I am convinced of their deep connection to one another.” – Lucia Osborne-Crowley


Shame and trauma are inextricably bound together. Recent research in trauma studies has argued that “post-traumatic shame” is a key experience that shapes post-trauma states (Theisen-Womersley, 2021), and others have come to theorise and describe PTSD as a “shame disorder” (Herman, 2011). Shame is a world-organising emotion for  many trauma survivors, and shame is also behind much of the maladaptive behaviour associated with trauma, PTSD and other post-trauma states. As a result, it is clear that trauma-informed practitioners will benefit from a deeper awareness and understanding of shame, along with competence about how to recognise and manage shame dynamics.


What is Shame Competence?

Shame is a powerful force that can profoundly impact individuals who have experienced trauma, often in a negative and destructive way. To address shame, which often remains unspoken and unacknowledged, and to begin to work constructively with shame, then shame competence is needed. Shame Competence is a set of skills, principles, and practices that can be learned by individuals and applied throughout an organization. The aim is to engage shame constructively in order to create more engagement, wellbeing, dignity and inclusion. Shame Competence involves practitioners having a theoretical and practical understanding of shame. Practitioners must understand what shame is, be aware of, and able to identify, behaviours that are used to cope with shame. Practitioners must also be aware of shame dynamics, how shame circulates interpersonally, and develop on-going competence in identifying their own shame and its effects on their thinking, actions and behaviour within professional practice.


What can a Shame Competent Professional Do?

Recognise shame in themselves and in others; Understand common shame defenses and recognise hidden shame; Respond appropriately to shame and manage shame dynamics for positive outcomes; Recognise shaming and avoid using shaming; Understand how shame shows up in organisations; create psychological safety; enact trauma-informed practice.


Shame Competence for Trauma-Informed Practitioners Training

Despite the clear links between shame and trauma, understanding shame has not traditionally been an explicit focus of trauma-informed approaches. While trauma-informed approaches ask the important question ‘What happened to you?’ (instead of ‘What is wrong with you?’), the shame competent approach additionally asks, ‘What are you experiencing right now?’, in order to give practitioners a practical understanding of how to best manage interactions and services in order to respond appropriately to individuals’ emotional and cognitive states in order to work towards positive outcomes and less disengagement. Professor Luna Dolezal worked in collaboration with the Trauma Informed Plymouth Network (TIPN) to develop this innovative and evidence-based Shame Competence for Trauma Informed Practitioners Training.

The aim of the shame competence training is to enable individuals and organizations to begin to create and systematise nuanced and collaborative understandings of how shame is produced and experienced as a result of particular interactions, experiences, policies and practice, enhancing organizational and individual emotional intelligence, in order to understand the impacts and effects of shame within professional practice.

The Shame Competence for Trauma-Informed Practitioners training package is currently delivered in-person over the course of 1 day, with a maximum of 30 participants per training session.

Topics covered in the training are:


Some feedback from participants:


If you would like to find out more about how to book a training session, or to hear about costings, please contact Dr James Woodhams:

This training is trusted by:


Luna worked with Haley Peckham (Facilitator and Training Developer), Meg-John Barker (Creative Consultant), Devon & Cornwall Police, the wider Police Feedback Network and the Trauma Informed Plymouth Network to develop and pilot the training in 2022.

The development of the training is funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) and Devon & Cornwall Police Serious Violence Prevention Programme, and the Open Innovation Platform Funding, University of Exeter (2022).

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