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Trauma-informed counselling

Designed for counsellors, psychotherapists, and trainees, this 25-hour short course will develop your understanding of trauma and trauma-informed practice through the lens of power and safety. Aligned with the Scope of Practice and Education (SCoPEd) level B competencies, it explores key aspects of trauma, including the impact of childhood experiences and social contexts. You’ll learn about power relations, intersectionality theory, and the Power Threat Meaning Framework in relation to working with trauma. You'll discover the importance of working safely with diverse clients, managing boundaries and risk, and practicing ethical approaches when dealing with trauma. You’ll also learn about the importance and different ways of self-care and self-awareness for practitioners working with trauma. On successful completion, you’ll receive a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) certificate.

Standalone study only

You will not be awarded credits for studying this course. It is available for standalone study only and cannot be counted towards an OU qualification.

Short course

Short course code



This is a non-credit bearing course.

Study method

Short course cost

Entry requirements

What you will study

The course is focused on developing an understanding of trauma-informed counselling. The course is organised in six units.

Unit 1: Introduction sets up the course and invites you to consider your current confidence with trauma-informed counselling.

Unit 2: Understanding trauma introduces you to ways of understanding and conceptualising trauma. This includes key definitions, the impact of trauma on the nervous system, and the role of childhood and multiple intersecting factors that can shape a person’s early life experiences and later life health outcomes.

Unit 3: Trauma in context explores trauma in broader social contexts. You'll develop an understanding of the importance of moving beyond the individual and attending to the social context and power relations within which trauma occurs. You'll consider how examining power relations can help us to understand societal oppression, structural inequalities and marginalisation (such as the role of class, racism, and gender). You'll be introduced to intersectionality theory and the Power Threat Meaning Framework as ways of making sense of the role of power in the context of trauma. You'll also examine the social context of therapy itself.

Unit 4: Trauma-informed approaches addresses ways of working safely with trauma. You'll explore trauma-informed principles that can guide your practice. You'll also see how to work safely, manage risk, and work within appropriate boundaries as aligned with your professional ethical framework.

Unit 5: Trauma and you explores the role of, and importance of, self-awareness and self-care when working with trauma. You'll learn about the impacts of working with trauma on the practitioner, including the risks of burnout, compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, and vicarious trauma. You'll reflect on your embodied and psychological responses to working with clients experiencing trauma, and you will reflect on how your own history and potential experiences of trauma may shape how you respond to trauma work. You'll develop an appreciation of mindful self-awareness when doing trauma work; specifically, the role of mindful self-awareness within the therapy relationship, and within yourself. You'll explore your own relationship with self-care, what the research tells us about therapist self-care, and the importance of paying attention to your own needs, as well as those of your clients and the organisations you may work within, when you are working from a trauma-informed lens.

Unit 6: Conclusion invites you to reflect on what you have learnt on the course and identify your further training needs and requirements for working from a trauma-informed lens.

The course aligns with SCOPeD (The Scope of Practice and Education Framework) competencies that are relevant for trauma-informed counselling. Course completion will boost knowledge and confidence and support counsellors and psychotherapists to offer counselling from a trauma-informed lens.

You will learn

By studying this course, you will gain:

  • knowledge and understanding of key ways of understanding and conceptualising trauma
  • knowledge and understanding of boundaried and ethical approaches to working safely with trauma
  • an appreciation of how to reflect on your own responses to trauma including the impact of trauma on the self
  • an appreciation of the role of power in trauma-informed counselling
  • an ability to recognise issues of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion relevant in the context of trauma-informed practice
  • an ability to identify and respond to your own needs in the context of working with trauma

Vocational relevance

This course will support counsellors and psychotherapists to develop an understanding of trauma-informed practice. This course is designed to align to the SCoPEd competencies for working with trauma (Knowledge and Skills, Self-Awareness and Reflection).

Learner support

This short course offers online learning and contains self-study materials to be studied at your own pace. There is no learner support from learning advisers available on this course.

Teaching and assessment


There is no formal assessment on this course. The course includes multiple ‘pauses for reflection’ designed to promote the reflexivity which is a professional skill for counsellors. The course also includes an end-of-course multiple-choice quiz.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations, which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements. This course is designed for qualified counsellors and psychotherapists as well as counselling and psychotherapy trainees.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact us.

Course length

In total, this course will require around 25 hours to complete.

The course is open for registration for 12 months. Once enrolled, learners are advised to complete within two months but the course will be accessible for 18 months.


Start End England fee Register
At anytime before registration end date Jan 2025 - see Entry requirements for more detail £200.00

Registration closes 31/07/2024


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In the meantime, explore our overview of Fees and funding.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

All learning materials are delivered entirely online. You’ll have access to a course website, which includes:

  • a study planner
  • course-specific materials and activities
  • audio and video content.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS Ventura or higher.

Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

If you have a disability

The course is delivered online and makes use of a variety of online resources. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs.

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DGXS004 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.