Supporting Staff Towards a Resilience Focused Mindset Shift

Mindset is the most critical step for making lasting changes within a school or organization aspiring to be trauma-informed and resilience-focused. We know that when trauma-informed, resilience-focused adults work within trauma-informed and resilience-focused systems, the well-being of all children increases. However, like with any change, people will experience various reactions to a shift in mindset. Keep in mind that for some, trauma-informed, resilience-focused best practices are the opposite of long-held beliefs driving the practices they have been using for decades. We often see people oscillating between responses such as frustration, blame, doubt, anger, and worry before moving to a place where they can start to learn and implement new approaches. It helps to understand four main types of people, their responses, and strategies to help support them when encouraging mindset shifts. The four types of people you might encounter are historians, resistors, fence-riders, and change leaders.

Types of people and how they respond to change.

Historians. Historians are people who reminisce. It is not that they are opposed to change, they are just not ready to stop doing what they have done for years. They may say things like, “It never used to be this way,” or “behavior is getting worse.” They are used to the way things have been, and even though they see areas for improvement, they are hesitant.

Resistors. Resistors are not enthusiastic about change in whatever form it takes. They will probably only change when given no choice. Resistors openly challenge change. They are convinced that changes will not work and will look for any example to prove they are correct. Resistors may try a strategy one time, and if it doesn’t go well, they will say, “See, I knew this would not help.”

Fence riders. Fence riders will make up most of the population in every organization. They tend to stay on the edge of trauma-informed discussions. They are not fully bought in, but they are not entirely opposed. They are generally open to change once they know it will optimize their performance. Fence riders see strategies work for someone else before buying into their value and benefit if you must select a person to spend time and energy with, choose a fence rider.

Change Leaders. Change leaders are forward thinkers who are prepared to lead the agenda rather than follow. For them, the future isn’t something to respond to but rather shape themselves. They jump in with both feet. They champion the mindset and are ready to implement strategies immediately. They are the first to adopt a new mindset and improve upon practices, so they become operationalized within an organization.

Once you know how a person responds to a proposed shift in mindset, you can try some strategies to support you. People have a fantastic capacity to change and do well when provided with education, strategies, practice, and feedback to help them along the way.

Strategies to encourage mindset shifts.


  • Build connections and relationships.
  • Get curious about why they wish to return to the past. “What works well about what you have always done?”
  • Ask them share stories and examples of what worked well in the past.
  • Invite them to discuss what worked and what did not work in the past.
  • Provide facts and research.
  • Avoid debates.
  • Give them time.


  • They will need to see the historians and fence-riders using strategies before they agree to join in.
  • Start slow.
  • Invite to discussions.
  • Be consistent and patient.
  • Listen.
  • Mirror what they say. “I heard you say that you do not think the strategies will work.”

Fence riders

  • Build connections and relationships. Focus on fence-riders.
  • Set up individual meetings where they can ask questions and share any hesitations.
  • Provide opportunities for them to see strategies in action.
  • Provide them with various experiences for side-by-side modeling.

Change Leaders

  • Nurture this relationship.
  • Advocate for change leaders to chair committee meetings.
  • Invite them to discussions and ask them to speak and share experiences and examples.
  • Encourage them to help with system-wide policies and procedures.

Now that you understand the types of people, you might want to look at a roster of your staff members and identify each person according to their type. From there, you can create a strategy for implementation. All types will benefit from Starr’s trauma-informed, resilience-focused training.