Student-Staff (e.g. teaching assistants, resident advisors)

Student-staff (students who both attend and work for an institution simultaneously) can also engage in trauma-informed practice & care. Below are some key examples to consider in reference to specific roles students may hold on campus.

Residence Assistant (RA)
Embedding trauma-informed practice & care with RAs can look like (Lynch, 2019):

  • Building in time for breaks/time off, especially after responding to demanding situations

You cannot support others if you are drained and exhausted – RAs may find themselves responding to a variety of demanding situations – from mental health crises to sexual violence disclosures. Though these situations tend to be built into training, the fight or flight response that can result in the moment while responding nonetheless remains very real and very exhausting both physically and mentally.

  • Taking time away from their communities

It is not sustainable to be available to help all the time, nor is it helpful for their communities if RAs are not prioritizing their own needs. Supporting RAs may mean gaining a better understanding of what these needs are and how to fulfill them, as well as the creation of healthy boundaries so the RA role does not become all encompassing. For more information on setting boundaries please see our tip sheet.

  • Continuously reflecting on and processing interactions/situations and utilizing healthy coping skills

Be sure to build in the time for reflection and processing within weekly meetings and reports. This approach allows for reflection and processing to be ongoing and not only be brought to the forefront when things are not going well.


A term used to highlight that a given environment is one that prioritizes the emotional and physical safety of those in it. *note: Using the term Safer instead of safe acknowledges the intention without assuming that we can know what would ensure someone else’s safety.

Students come from diverse backgrounds, and some may have histories of trauma or experience a traumatic event while living in residence. Getting to know who is in your community and ensuring programming, language etc., is reflective of this is particularly important. Ensure that cultural, historical, and gender issues are talked about throughout the year, as this conversation should be ongoing. As such, creating a safer space and establishing guidelines with students from the start is recommended. Guidelines can include what a safer space means to them and what they need to feel safe. Consider the dynamics between students and what is happening in the larger campus community.


Create space for students to experience autonomy and make their own decisions. No matter how big or small the choice may be, offering the space to choose returns some power to the students you serve and embeds trauma-informed practice & care into this area of campus.


Similar to creating spaces where students can choose, creating spaces where students can collaborate both with you and other staff members is crucial when taking a trauma-informed approach. Collaboration invites students to express their needs, offer solutions, and get the support they need in a way that will be most suited to them. Collaboration could look like engaging with the students in your residence to help come up with and plan events, or even proactively consulting them on any concerns they might have while living in residence.


RAs are new to those living in residence, and trust for some students may not come as easily. RAs are students too! Drawing on this common identity helps RAs be more approachable and relatable. Student life brings challenges, so knowing that you have someone on your side is important. Building trust will involve being patient, consistent, respecting boundaries, and being open and honest. For example, if there is a residence conflict or incident, staff should communicate what the next steps will be rather than withholding information.

Moreover, sometimes, no matter how thoughtfully you might communicate and attempt to build rapport with a student, they still may not trust you. Through a trauma-informed lens it is important in this scenario to avoid taking this personally and getting defensive, even though that is often easier said than done. Instead, engage in self-reflection around how you can continue to create safer environments for the student despite their reaction to you.


Part of an RA’s role is to be a guide for students living in residence. Eventually, these students’ time in residence will end; they may move off campus or even become RAs or student leaders themselves. It is important that RAs (and even student affairs staff) reflect on how they can not only support the students they work with, but also make an intentional effort to empower students to build their own skills and tools that will help them survive and thrive after they leave the campus community. Sometimes this process can even involve connecting students with support and resources off campus.

Guide: PDF Version