About This Program

Target Population: All workers in the helping professions who labor in trauma-exposed environments including direct service workers and support staff

Program Overview

CE-CERT (Components for Enhancing Career Experience and Reducing Trauma) is a set of five skills and practices that support the well-being of providers in trauma-exposed environments. The practices are founded in diverse research related to maintaining emotion regulation, or returning to emotional homeostasis, after exposure to work-related stress. The skills described within the model, and coached during consultation, are:

  • Experiential engagement
  • Reducing rumination
  • Conscious narrative
  • Reducing emotional labor
  • Parasympathetic recovery

Implementation of CE-CERT includes training of the full team, additional one-day training for supervisors, and ten follow-on consultation calls to supervisors (and, optimally, to midlevel managers and senior leadership). The program has a defined manual that includes the fidelity indicators (known as MAPS, or must air points) for the training, content for follow-on consultation calls with supervisors and program leaders, requirements for trainers, and descriptions of the program and implementation process.

Program Goals

The goals of CE-CERT (Components for Enhancing Career Experience and Reducing Trauma) are:

  • Improved sense of affective well-being at work overall
  • Reduced anxiety about work tasks and conditions
  • Increased engagement in job
  • Improved sense of enjoyment of work
  • Reduced symptoms of secondary traumatic stress
  • Increased energy for work

Logic Model

View the Logic Model for CE-CERT.

Essential Components

The essential elements of CE-CERT (Components for Enhancing Career Experience and Reducing Trauma) include:

  • CE-CERT is predicated on the premise that secondary trauma occurs when the worker becomes overwhelmed or helpless, and not via mere exposure to trauma.
  • Therefore, strategies for designed to prevent workers from feeling helpless or overwhelmed should prevent or mitigate secondary traumatic stress.
  • To mitigate feelings of helplessness, the CE-CERT practices are active strategies that are designed to substitute for passive responses to circumstances that cause the worker distress.
  • The CE-CERT model consists of five components (i.e., practice domains), each of which describes an acquirable skill. The five skill components combine to accomplish one overarching objective: To bring autonomic arousal into conscious control.
  • Higher amount of time in the window of tolerance equals more job satisfaction and less indirect trauma. Ideally, if the worker feels good when they are at work, they will like their work and be less likely to experience secondary traumatic stress.
  • The unique and defining characteristics of CE-CERT are:
    • Not a “self-care” approach; rather, skills to support emotion regulation of the worker
    • Not an “after work” recovery approach; rather, in real-time and involving continuous conscious oversight and application of skills
    • Seeks to improve the experience of doing work
    • Model synthesizes a variety of research fields (e.g., trauma treatment, psychology of emotions, occupational psychology, narratology, and neuroscience)
  • The five CE-CERT skills and practice domains are:
    • Experiential Engagement is most simply described as “avoiding avoidance.” This skill entails becoming more willing to experience the negative aspects (i.e., negative emotions) that arise from the work and becoming more aware of feelings or tasks that they would naturally avoid.
    • Decreasing Rumination refers to the ability to leave negative emotions in the experience. Skills developed here help workers manage the tendency to invoke thoughts and images that carry forward negative experience for hours or days afterwards. How does the worker prevent a stress event from ruining their day or intruding into their evening?
    • Conscious Narrative refers to the intentional effort to direct the story the worker tells themself about their experience doing the clinical work. This is “cognitive therapy” for professionals. This isn’t about “thinking happy thoughts,” it is about making editorial decisions that are based on an accurate sense of reality. This narrative includes:
      • The “before” narrative which is the background the worker is constantly telling themself that makes negative or positive judgements in anticipation of what they are going to experience.
      • The “during” narrative refers to how the worker talks to themself while during potentially distressful situations—how confident the worker feels, how the worker defines the challenge, and what the worker tells themself about the stress itself.
      • The “after” narrative is taking care to place intense experiences into a narrative that makes sense to the worker. There is a particular emphasis upon nurturing a sense of advancing competency—that the worker is always getting better at what they do and that difficult experiences have meaning.
    • Reducing Emotional Labor refers to the set of skills that reduce emotional strain and make emotion work less effortful. Skills will be identified that are designed to allow the worker to do their job in a natural rhythm rather than exhausting themself by suppressing their genuine feelings.
  • Parasympathetic Recovery refers to the deliberate creation of a sense of space during the weekday that allows the natural rise and fall of the stress response. Rather than waiting until the worker gets home to recover, they will be taught how to continuously monitor how the work is affecting them, and how to “cognitively breathe” all day long.
  • NOTE: The overarching goals (at the organizational level) are reduced staff turnover and absenteeism. However, these organizational factors are so multifactorial that they may or may not be sensitive to changes brought about by implementation of the CE-CERT model.
  • Concepts NOT consistent with the CE-CERT model include:
    • “Exposure to trauma stories cause secondary trauma.”
      • (CE-CERT’s response: Only when accompanied by feelings of helplessness or being overwhelmed.)
    • “The best remedy to secondary trauma or compassion fatigue is self-care.”
      • (CE-CERT’s response: There is little to no evidence that self-care strategies reduce secondary trauma. The best remedy is for the worker to develop mastery of skills to retain emotion regulation during their work and confidence in their recovery skills to eliminate feelings of being overwhelmed.)
    • “Feeling intensely leads to ‘compassion fatigue.’”
      • (CE-CERT’s response: “Compassion fatigue” is really empathy strain—the effort to appear compassionate when the worker’s genuine experience is something else. Genuine compassion is low emotion labor and, in fact, produces energy.)
    • “Career-sustaining narratives are thinking positively.”
      • (CE-CERT’s response: Career sustaining narratives must be reality-based. “This is going to be the best day ever!” is toxic positivity, not a supportable narrative as this may be a terrible day. What is sustainable is the worker being open to whatever happens, even if it is sad or frustrating, and to maintain a belief that their work is meaningful.)
    • “The answer to secondary trauma is better ‘work/life balance.’”
      • (CE-CERT’s response: This can lead to classifying work as onerous and stressful, and “life” is restorative and where pleasure is found. Neither of those notions are the full truth—work contains many pleasurable and meaningful moments, and nonwork life contains its own stressors. Ultimately, the goal is to become skillful enough at emotion regulation—and telling the narrative about the work and creating space within their work—that the worker can fully bring it into their life rather than trying to create more rigid boundaries.)
    • “The problem is that our jobs are too hard”
      • (CE-CERT’s response: Job engagement and energy is highest when the demands of the job are high and within the worker’s skill set. The problem isn’t that the job is hard—the worker wants it to be challenging. But their skills—including their emotion-management skills—must match the level of demand.)

Program Delivery

Recommended Intensity:

12-hour foundations training; 6-hour supervision training; 10 one-hour consultation phone calls

Recommended Duration:

2 days for direct service workers, 3 days for supervisors, 10 months for follow-on consultation

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Community Daily Living Setting
  • Outpatient Clinic
  • Public Child Welfare Agency (Dept. of Social Services, etc.)
  • Virtual (Online, Telephone, Video, Zoom, etc.)


This program does not include a homework component.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

Standard PowerPoint setup plus equipment for virtual meetings

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

All levels of providers

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Program Manual(s)

Please contact the training contact below for more information about the manual.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

At the sponsoring organization’s designated site

Number of days/hours:

12 hours direct service workers

18 hours supervisors

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Currently, there are no published, peer-reviewed research studies for CE-CERT.

Additional References

No reference materials are currently available for CE-CERT.

Contact Information

Brian C Miller, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: Sole Proprietor

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: February 2024

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: May 2024

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: June 2024