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Short Title

The Environment-Within-Person Perspective

Abstract

Over the last 25 years there has been increasing recognition of the role that traumatic stress plays in a wide range of health, mental health, and social problems affecting client populations served by social workers. Traumatic stress is generated by conditions in one's external environment, mediated by internal cognitive processes, and stored in the physical body. Generalist social work practitioners are trained to address conditions of the environment through a social justice lens and to help clients think through logical steps of a problem-solving or change process. However, social workers are not typically trained to understand or respond to trauma symptoms with which a growing number of their clients live. Because traumatic stress adversely affects individual wellbeing at intra- and interpersonal levels, generalist social workers are in need of additional tools to effectively work with clients. In this article we argue that traditional frameworks used to guide social work practice do not equip social workers to respond effectively to individuals afflicted by traumatic stress because of the absence of attention to and understanding of the human body. We propose the integration of a mindfulness framework and introduce the environment-within-person perspective. It is a natural extension to the understanding of person in the Person-In-Environment perspective and provides a tangible pathway to supporting post-traumatic growth among people served by social workers.

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