Hate Crimes and Trauma: A Guide For Supervisors

Hate Crimes and Trauma: A Guide For Supervisors

It is often difficult to know how to serve others during complex situations. In times of crisis and trauma, even the most seasoned clinician might not know exactly how to respond. Trauma is felt and experienced in the brain and all brains are wired differently. Thus, everyone's response to trauma and crisis is different. 

This guide serves to aid managers in helping their staff navigate mental health services and terminology that might be unfamiliar to them.

How do I tell if my staff is undergoing trauma? What can I do to help them?

What is necessary to look out for is inconsistencies and shifts in personalities. For instance, if your once gregarious employee suddenly withdraws, that might be a sign that something is wrong.  If a shy or introverted employee becomes more willing to open up or communicate, that might be a sign that he or she has something to express. 

If your staff member (s) feels comfortable telling you what happened in confidence, then you will be able to assess what they might need by actively listening to them.  What survivors need is validation and empathy this comes through active listening. Active listening is a honed a skill that can take years to master. Even the most seasoned practitioner needs to practice active listening. However, there are key phrases and expressions you can listen for in order to better help your staff. Listen for these expressions:

  • “I feel scared”
  • “I feel unsafe”
  •  “I am not sleeping well”
  • “I have nightmares”
  • “I feel overwhelmed”

Note not everyone processes stress, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma in the same way.  One of the best ways to help your staff is to understand that individuals who have undergone any form of trauma will always process the event differently and there is NO right or wrong way for them to process or grieve.

Secondly, trauma is personal. If a staff member does not want to talk about the traumatic event, do not force or coerce them. If a staff member does want to confide in you, everything the individual says can and must remain confidential unless he or she reports abuse or harm to themselves or other(s) and you are a mandated reporter. If you are a mandated reporter, you are then legally required to report abuse to Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) Hotline at 1-800-252-2873 or 1-800-25ABUSE.         

Never refer to anyone who has undergone trauma as ‘victim.’ Rather, refer to them as survivors.  The term ‘victim’ holds the individual in the clutch of trauma. If the trauma was caused by personal infliction or bodily defamation, the term ‘victim’ gives power to the offender.  ‘Survivor’, however, is an invitation for reclamation and empowerment. Reclaiming one’s life back can and often be a very difficult process.  However, for survivors to move forward and heal, individuals need to eventually move towards the three Rs. They are restoration, resiliency, and reconciliations.

For a survivor of trauma, life will never be “back to normal.” It is important for supervisors to be empathetic to what that person is experiencing and processing.

What should I look for when finding and sharing resources with my staff?

Ask what they might need. If your library offers health insurance (and mental and behavioral health is covered), check a resource directory to see which insurance policies are covered. Insurance information for mental health is quite complicated and convoluted and often HR managers have to consult third-party resources to find which facilities are covered under what policies. Now, with the Affordable Health Care Act being revoked, this will complicate matters more. Always keep an eye out for facilities that have sliding scale services. Those are found in community health organizations.

Consider what type of traumatic event your staff has experienced. This will help determine what resources will be helpful for them.

  • If the staff has faced a terrorist attack or mass shooting, it’s best to refer them to a trauma therapist. A trauma therapist specializes in trauma and often treats trauma through Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). TF-CBT is a type of psychotherapeutic practice that is evidence-based and focuses on the specific needs of those individuals dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other difficulties connected to traumatic life events.  The trauma therapist and offer practice coping strategies that allow individuals to find live through the trauma. TF-CBT help survivors understand and process the emotions that surface after a traumatic event.
  • If the staff has faced a hate crime or threat related to gender/sexual orientation/race/religion/disability, then it is helpful to refer them to a support group specific to their need.  Individual therapy is recommended additionally, however, one major benefit of support groups is the notion of community support. Often survivors of hate crimes feel isolated and support groups enable the survivor to find and connect with individuals who share a similar experience.

There are so many types of clinicians out there, how do I know which is best?

License and Certifications:

  • Master of Arts in Couple and Family Therapy (MCFT) program prepares entry-level marriage and family therapists (MFT) to serve families, couples, and individuals.
  • Master of Family Therapy (MFT) are master level clinicians who are licensed and fully board certified. 
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) is a master's level licensed clinician that are trained primarily to examine psychological issues in a social context.  Often LCSWs are hired to work at non-profits or social services organizations that work in areas such as race, immigration, and poverty.
  • Psychologists are doctoral level clinicians: that is, they are people who have completed a doctorate in psychology and gone through 3,000 hours of supervision prior to licensure.  (Can be both PsyD or Ph.D.)
  • Ph.D. is primarily researched focused
  • PsyD or Doctor of Psychology, primarily clinical psychologist (research and treatment)
  • A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has specialized in mental health. In recent years (due to a surplus of funding to pharmaceutical corporations), psychiatrists, unfortunately, are pressured to focus on more prescribing and less on facilitating therapy these days. Though that is not always the case, if your employee is looking for therapy and not in need of psychotropic medications, then any licensed clinician can treat them.They are clinically and medically trained.  After undergraduate studies, a psychiatrist will spend an average of eight years in training (four years of medical school and four years of residency).

MDs are not better or worse than any clinician. Rather, the only difference is that MDs can legally prescribe psychiatric medications and PhDs and PsyD cannot.  For standard outpatient treatments, any licensed and certified clinician can provide treatments.



American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental

disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.