The Traumatic Stress Institute fosters the transformation of organizations and service systems to trauma-informed care (TIC) through the delivery of whole-system consultation, professional training, coaching, and research.

Risking Connection®

Trauma Training

Framework for supporting survivors of traumatic experiences


Risking Connection® is the centerpiece of our Whole-System Change Model and is not offered as stand-alone training. 

What is Risking Connection® (RC) Training?

Risking Connection is a foundational trauma training model that has been taught to tens of thousands of professionals globally since its development in the late 1990’s. Born out of a consumer survivor lawsuit in the state of Maine, the voices of people with lived experience of trauma echo through the training.

Originally created for adult mental health, the Risking Connection standard version has been revised to be relevant across sectors including child behavioral health, early childhood, juvenile justice, homeless services, sexual and domestic violence, sexual and reproductive health, and others.

In addition to the RC standard version, separate RC curriculum adaptations have been created for foster care, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and primary care medicine.

What is the Essence of the Risking Connection® Approach?

At its heart, RC asserts that people that have suffered adversity and trauma are hurt in the context of relationships – often by caretakers, by others close to them, and by service systems themselves. Once hurt and betrayed, making future connections means risking disappointment, shame, loss, and more trauma.  For good reason this is not easy, and people protect themselves by distrusting others, keeping them at a distance.

Yet RC argues that to truly heal, survivors of trauma must risk connection. It is the job of caring helpers and service systems to foster relationships that are different from those of their past. Over time, through the experience of RICH relationships – those that demonstrate Respect, Information, Connection, and Hope — people can learn to trust others and move beyond the wounds of the past.

RC also stresses that working with people who have suffered trauma also poses risks to helpers: vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue are very human responses to this work. Therefore, respect for and care of BOTH the person seeking help and the helper are vital.

How is Risking Connection® Training Unique?

    • It is a philosophy for providing services rather than a treatment technique
    • It is aimed at organizational staff from all disciplines, roles, and levels of training
    • It creates a common language among staff
    • It has been continuously updated to reflect current trends in the trauma field
    • It is highly interactive, using application and self-reflection activities vetted over 20 years of teaching

How do Organizations and Systems Use Risking Connection®?

    • Part of the Whole. RC training is a core element of the Traumatic Stress Institute’s Whole Systems Change Model to Trauma-Informed Care. Except in rare circumstances, TSI does not train RC as a stand-alone training
    • Inclusive. Organizations implementing TSI’s Whole Systems Change Model generally adopt RC as a mandated training for their staff
    • Sustainable. RC uses a Train-the-Trainer model so that organizations can sustain RC staff training indefinitely by having internal RC Trainers and Champions
    • Increases Staff Expertise and Support. RC Trainers are credentialed to teach RC in an ongoing way at their organization
    • Ongoing Professional Development. RC Trainers and Champions benefit from annual continuing education consult groups and webinars
    • There is Strength in Numbers. Engaging in Whole-System Change means joining a large community of organizations in North America and beyond who are using RC to implement TIC. RC Trainers and leaders can feel rejuvinated in their work through connecting with and learning from others in their field during trainings.

Risking Connection® Adaptations

As part of our Whole-System Change Process, we offer some Risking Connection® (RC) adaptations geared toward serving specific populations who have unique needs. Review information about our standard version of RC and available adaptations by clicking the tabs below.

The Traumatic Stress Institute’s standard version of Risking Connection has been revised many times since the publication of the original curriculum, with the goal of making it as relevant across systems as possible. Organizations engaged in RC through our Whole-System Change Model include those in sectors as diverse as:


    • child behavioral health
    • community trauma-informed care coalitions
    • sexual and domestic violence services
    • juvenile justice
    • health services/hospital systems (?)
    • homeless services
    • early childhood education
    • sexual and reproductive health
    • adult treatment services 

Risking Connection for Foster Parents is a training model that adapts the philosophy and principles of the original Risking Connection curriculum for foster parents who are caring for youth with trauma histories. This curriculum is also appropriate for teaching biological or kinship parents.

As the child welfare system relies less on residential treatment to treat their most stressed children and youth, more emphasis is being place on foster care.  In order for this to be successful, it is critical that foster parents receive sufficient training and support to keep children in their homes, limit disruptions, and promote long term healing of trauma and attachment wounds.

This training enables RC Trainers to teach the RC for Foster Parents training at your agency or school. The RC for Foster Parents training is organized into eight separate 90-minute modules that can stand alone or be taught as a series during a timeframe of your choosing. The training module topics are:

Module One: The Impact of Trauma

Module Two: The Trauma Framework

Module Three: Healing Relationships

Module Four: Strengthening Attachment, the Body and Brain, and Feeling Skills

Module Five: Symptoms as Adaptations

Module Six: Crisis Management

Module Seven: Noticing our Reactions and VT

Module Eight: The Restorative Approach

Understanding trauma, how it affects children, and how they can heal helps the foster family define problem behavior differently. They learn to see that the behavior is not about them, but instead an understandable adaptation to the child’s traumatic experiences.

The sessions include engaging and participatory learning modalities such as video, application exercise, small group activities, and discussion. Every effort has been made to make the material accessible to parents.

Risking Connection for IDD organizations is a training model that adapts the philosophy and principles of the original Risking Connection curriculum for those who serve the unique needs of clients with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities.

Trauma-informed care (TIC), widely viewed as a best practice in the human services, refers to a whole-system approach to addressing the reality of trauma in the people being supported through staff training, trauma-specific treatments, trauma-inform behavior support, and policy changes. Implementation of TIC has been shown to increase staff retention, decrease restraints, and decrease abuse allegations.

While statistics have shown that people with IDD are more likely to be victims of violent crimes or abuse, a systemic, chronic lack of funding and focus on this population means that few IDD organizations have been able to train their staff about trauma, address trauma in the people they support, or recognize how re-traumatization can happen in their programs. Our goal is to change this dynamic.

In 2019, the Traumatic Stress Institute made the strategic decision to bring its Whole-System Change Model to TIC to organizations and systems supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). After launching a Pilot TIC Learning Collaborative with 4 IDD organizations across the US, TSI is now offering its training and consulting services to IDD organizations more broadly.

Risking Connection for Primary Care Medicine

Whatever you’d want to say about this….I can’t find many resources about it. There’s mention on Elizabeth Powers’ website about TI Medical Care. It’s not labelled as RC, but rather as “the result of successful research at Georgetown U Med Ctr”….then in a summary point mentions RICH.

Also to think about: Since we have medical providers in our RC community already, how might that change how we message about this iteration of RC? How different is the Primary Care version to what we do? Why is there no corresponding book to sell, as there is on the Faith-Based Adaptation?

Also think about: Do we want to link to Elizabeth Powers at all? Perhaps best to link to John for sales and have him discern appropriateness of this model. 

Risking Connection in Faith Communities

This RC adaptation focuses on the healing role that clergy of all denominations can play in the lives of trauma survivors in their congregations. Its goal is to help clergy understand the nature of psychological trauma, how it affects people, and how faith leaders can help. Particular attention is paid to the spiritual impact of trauma.

While RC for Faith-Based is not available as part of our Whole-System Change Model, we do have trainers who will provide this training independently. Contact us to find out more.

Note: I’m thinking that we’d refer these requests to Alesia Starks and Elizabeth Vermilyea, since they’ve shown interest in it. Some kind of formal arrangement needed?