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What does “Healing-Centered” Mean?

  • The term Healing-Centered Engagement, or HCE, first appeared on May 31, 2018, in a blog posting by Dr. Shawn Ginwright, entitled “The Future of Healing: Shifting from Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement.”
  • HCE has been defined as “a progression from trauma-informed practice that combines our understanding of trauma with an explicit political and cultural lens and puts the emphasis on hope, imagination, and community” (Girls Leadership, 2022, n.p.).
  • HCE focuses on “addressing the collective needs of marginalized communities surviving collective traumatization” (Watts, 2020, p. 6).
  • HCE has anti-racist aspects in that it involves active “conscious[ness] about race and racism” and advocates “actions to end racial inequities in our daily lives” (Smithsonian, n.d.).
  • HCE has strong parallels with Culturally Responsive approaches in that both advocate for approaches that are:
    • Strength-based
    • Collective
    • Culturally shaped

Why isn’t Trauma Informed Practice enough?

Ginwright (2018) argues that Trauma Informed approaches tends to have the following limitations:

  • Addressing trauma as individual rather than collective
  • Lacking information about how to address trauma’s “root causes.”
  • Focusing on treating trauma rather than cultivating well-being

What are the principles of HCE?

Ginwright identifies four main elements of HCE. The list below is distilled from his 2018 blog posting:

1. “Healing Centered Engagement is explicitly political rather than clinical” (Ginwright, 2018).

  • HCE sees well-being as:
    • Produced by people’s environments. (HCE also sees trauma as produced by people’s environments.)
    • Enhanced by the work of individuals and communities to change their environments
    • “[A] function of the control and power […] people have in their schools and communities”
  • Ginwright explains that “When people advocate for policies and opportunities that address causes of trauma, such as lack of access to mental health, these activities contribute to a sense of purpose, power and control over life situations.”

2. “Healing Centered Engagement is culturally grounded and views healing as the restoration of identity” (Ginwright, 2018). More specifically, HCE aims to:

  • Nourish healthy cultural identity
  • Cultivate collective healing
  • Considering overlapping collective identities such as “race, gender, or sexual orientation” (intersectionality)
  • Address “spiritual domains of health” as part of a “holistic” approach.

3. “Healing Centered Engagement is asset driven and focuses on well-being we want, rather than symptoms we want to suppress” (Ginwright, 2018).

Ginwright describes HCE as “asset driven” and “strengths-based.” In his words:

  • While it is important to acknowledge trauma and its influence on young people’s mental health, healing centered strategies move one step beyond by focusing on what we want to achieve, rather than merely treating emotional and behavioral symptoms of trauma. […] Healing centered engagement is based in collective strengths and possibility which offers a departure from [focusing] on clinical treatment of illness.

4. “Healing Centered Engagement supports […] providers with their own healing” (Ginwright, 2018).

  • “Healing is an ongoing process that we all need.”
  • Service providers need and deserve healing too.
  • Healing for providers helps nourish well-being in the populations they work with.
  • Building systems that promote the wellbeing of providers should be an objective of policy stakeholders.

How does HCE relate to university SV/SA policies and service provision?

  • Much of Ginwright’s community work that generated the concept of HCE dealt with gender-based violence among youth (Ginwright, 2021).
  • HCE originated as an approach for addressing trauma experienced by youth.
    • Many university students are youth, so approaches to campus sexual violence that are developed for youth make sense.
    • Sexual violence tends to be traumatic, and those who are responsible for sexual violence have often experienced trauma, so approaches to sexual violence that address trauma make sense.
  • HCE is beginning to be applied to work with victims/survivors, who are not always youth (e.g., Watts, 2020; Futures Without Violence, 2021).

Is there scientific evidence for the efficacy of HCE?

HCE has not been tested through research nearly as much as Trauma Informed Practice (TIP) or Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) at least in part because HCE is a newer approach.

Where can I find more information about HCE?

More information about HCE can be found by exploring The CARMA Chronicles (2022), a podcast that interviews Healing Centered practitioners about their practices. The podcast can be found here: