Risking Connection®

About This Program

Target Population: Organizations with professionals and paraprofessionals, and others who work with survivors (children, adolescents, and adults) of traumatic life events, especially those with histories of childhood trauma

For organizations that serve children ages: 0 – 25

Program Overview

Risking Connection® is a foundational trauma training program that grew out of a consumer trauma survivor lawsuit. It is based on constructivist self-development theory (CSDT), an integrative theory drawing on attachment theory, relational psychoanalytic theory, developmental psychopathology, and theory of cognitive schemas. Risking Connection® provides a way for organizations and systems to change their culture to one that is trauma-informed and trauma-responsive. It uses a train-the-trainer model of dissemination whereby organizations gain the internal capacity to conduct Risking Connection® trainings and sustain a trauma-informed culture.

This model emphasizes:

  • A framework for understanding common trauma symptoms
  • A common inclusive language
  • Relationships as the primary agent of change
  • Respect for, and care of, both the client and the service provider (vicarious traumatization) as critical to healing
  • Strategies and tools to support adoption of the model in clinical, social, and organizational processes

Program Goals

The goals of Risking Connection® are:

  • Knowledgeable of content and models essential to Risking Connection®
  • Increase in favorable beliefs about trauma-informed care
  • Demonstrates behaviors aligned with trauma-informed care
  • Increase in compassion satisfaction
  • Decrease in burnout and secondary (or vicarious) traumatic stress
  • Reduce the use of restraints and seclusion with residents
  • Decrease in likelihood to leave organization
  • Decrease in staff injuries from client management
  • Increase in staff satisfaction with job
  • Increase in ability to keep children in care

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Risking Connection®.

Essential Components

The essential components of Risking Connection® include:

  • Risking Connection enables organizations to adopt a staff training model that provides foundational training of staff about trauma and trauma-informed care.
  • Organizations can include inpatient and outpatient mental health foster care, hospitals, peer recovery programs, after school programs, community outreach, faith communities, residential care, juvenile justice, and therapeutic schools.
  • Organizations are supported in implementing the staff training model and trauma-informed care by joining an international community of agencies who are engaged in a similar process.
  • After adopting Risking Connection, organizations will have a cadre of highly-trained trainers who can train Risking Connection in an ongoing way at their organization. Most organizations make this a mandated training for their staff.
  • Staff at organizations using Risking Connection has a common language, theory, and framework to describe and understand the behavior their trauma survivor clients engage in.
  • Staff learns knowledge about psychological trauma and trauma-informed care, develop beliefs and attitudes favorable to trauma-informed care, and change behaviors to implement a trauma-informed culture.
  • Staff displays RICH relationships with clients and their peers. RICH relationships are characterized by Respect, Information, Connection, and Hope.
  • Risking Connection teaches organizations to:
    • Utilize the Risking Connection framework to respond to the impact of traumatic life events
    • Frame common symptoms and behaviors as adaptations to traumatic life events
    • Respond to survivors of traumatic experiences from a strengths-based approach
    • Demonstrate collaborative crisis management that reduces the risk of re-traumatization
    • Demonstrate increased self-awareness of their reactions to individual clients
    • Integrate knowledge of the impact of vicarious traumatization in the formulation of organizational and individual self-care plans
    • Create trauma-responsive cultures including policies, processes, and people systems

Program Delivery

Recommended Intensity:

This program is not a client-specific intervention, but a whole system approach that targets the entire organization. The focus is to create a trauma-informed and strengths-based environment in which trauma-specific interventions can be more effectively implemented. There are specific components delivered to adults/foster parents/clients that are derived from or related to the intervention, and they work in concert with the full-system efforts.

Recommended Duration:

This program is meant to be implemented at an organization and kept as a framework that supports the organization as it helps its clients work through their trauma.

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Hospital
  • Outpatient Clinic
  • Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
  • Group or Residential Care
  • Public Child Welfare Agency (Dept. of Social Services, etc.)
  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)


This program does not include a homework component.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

This program is implemented into an existing therapeutic environment that will have individual offices, group rooms, and administrative assistance. The training and adoption of the materials into the overall organization are the additional resources that are needed to run this program.

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Educational requirements vary based on context and setting. In clinical settings, licensed master's degree clinicians must be present. In nonclinical settings and nonmental health settings, competency and adoption of the model supersede educational level when staff members do not have postsecondary educations. Perhaps the most critical minimum qualification is the willingness to consider the role of trauma and another way of responding to those who experience it that is inclusive, supportive, and nonpathologizing while offering healing.

Manual Information

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

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contacts:
Training Type/Location:
  • Organizations dedicate necessary resources (human and financial) to use Risking Connection as a training model and approach.
  • Organizations complete the Risking Connection Basic Training taught by Risking Connection faculty.
  • Organizations identify staff to be Risking Connection trainers and they attend the Train-the-Trainer.
  • When using Klingberg's training system, the organization's credentialed Risking Connection trainers attend two continuing education events per year and get recertified every two years.
  • Organizations are expected to institutionalize certain core practices. For example, use reminders about RICH Relationships (based on Respect, Information, Connection, and Hope) and asking "how does the problem behavior help the client in the moment?"
  • Organizations complete an implementation plan which covers such things as scope of change, training plan and schedule, and targets for change.
  • The Traumatic Stress Institute (https://traumaticstressinstitute.org/) delivers Risking Connection as part of a 12- to 18-month Whole System Change Model to Trauma-Informed Care (TIC). The model has four phases: Leadership Engagement, Staff Training, Training Trainers and Champions, and Implementation Coaching. Program evaluation is integral to the model and involves data collection displayed on a dashboard. Organizations join an international community of providers implementing TIC and are supported by in-person and webinar training. A Risking Connection version for training foster parents is available.
  • The Trauma Informed Academy (https://thetraumainformedacademy.thinkific.com/) delivers Risking Connection either as a standalone training or part of an organizational change process. The organizational change process includes a self- or other-guided readiness assessment, which drives a change management plan including the training plan, communication plan, policy review and more followed by actions aligned with goals. Agencies will be worked with based on their specific requirements. Self-directed learning, webinars, and other materials that help improve functioning are also offered.
Number of days/hours:

Faculty-Led core Risking Connection Basic Training: 18-20 hours divided into blocks that meet organizational needs regarding staffing and learning needs.

Instructor-Led RICH® Relationships 101: 6 hours

Transformation to Trauma-Informed Care using Risking Connection®: 1-2 years

Faculty-led Train the trainer: Delivered in an agency setting and varies based on context.

It is recommended that organizations have staff complete the Risking Connection Basic Training and Risking Connection Train-the-Trainer within 3 to 6 months of each other. It is also recommended that Risking Connection trainers within an organization train other organizational staff in Risking Connection within a year. It is recommended that organizations maintain a cadre of Risking Connection trainers.

Initial implementation of Risking Connection that includes the Risking Connection Basic Training, Risking Connection Train-the-Trainer, and rollout of training within the organization takes a year to 18 months depending on the size of the organization. Most organizations continue to use Risking Connection as foundational trauma training in an ongoing way.

Additional Resources:

There currently are additional qualified resources for training:

Sidran Authorized Providers:

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Brown, S. M., Baker, C. N., & Wilcox, P. (2012). Risking Connection trauma training: A pathway toward trauma-informed care in child congregate care settings. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 4(5), 507-515. https:/doi.org/10.1037/a0025269

Type of Study: Multigroup pretest-posttest study
Number of Participants: 261


  • Age — Mean=38.7 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — 174 Females and 83 Males
  • Status — Participants were staff at residential treatment agencies for youth with serious emotional and psychiatric problems

Location/Institution: Not specified

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study examines the impact of the Risking Connection trauma training on the knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors of staff trainees at child congregate care agencies. Measures utilized were the Risking Connection Curriculum Assessment (RCCA), the Trauma-Informed Belief Measure, and the Staff Behavior in the Milieu. Results showed an increase in knowledge about the core concepts of the Risking Connection training; an increase in beliefs favorable to trauma-informed care; and an increase in self-reported staff behavior favorable to trauma-informed care. In addition, these findings suggest that the Train-the-Trainer model of dissemination central to Risking Connection is effective at increasing beliefs favorable to trauma-informed care. Limitations include lack of a control group, nonrandomization of subjects to the different trainings, and a lack of connection to agency or client level outcomes.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

DeHart, D. D. (2006). Collaborative response to crime victims in urban areas: Final evaluation report. University of South Carolina, Center for Child & Family Studies.

Giller, E., Vermilyea, E., & Steele, T. (2006). Risking Connection: Helping agencies embrace relational work with trauma survivors. Journal of Trauma Practice, 5, 65-82. https://doi.org/10.1300/J189v05n01_05

Saakvitne, K. W., Gamble, S., Pearlman, L. A., & Tabor Lev, B. (2001). Risking Connection: A training curriculum for working with survivors of childhood abuse. Sidran Press.

Contact Information

Elizabeth Power, M.Ed.
Agency/Affiliation: Trauma Informed Response/EPower & Associates, inc.
Website: www.traumarecoveryconnection.com/trc_riskingconnection.html
Phone: (615) 714-6389
Steven Brown, PsyD
Agency/Affiliation: Klingberg Family Centers
Website: traumaticstressinstitute.org/services/risking-connection-training
Phone: (413) 218-3293
Agency/Affiliation: Sidran Corporation
Website: www.riskingconnection.com
Phone: (410) 825-8888

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: September 2019

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: August 2019

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: November 2012