PSYC 400 Lecture 10: Sensitive Topics

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29 Dec 2020
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Instructional Workshop: Teaching Sensitive Topics
Sensitive topics: elicit a distressed or emotional response amongst students i.e. sexual assault,
PTSD, LGBTQ+ rights, abortion, suicide, etc.
Important to teach so students have safe space to hear and respectfully engage with opinions that
may differ; raise awareness of issues
Set stage for discussion and respect, encourage attendance (empower students to deal with
emotional reactions to these topics), set ground rules, create non-threatening environment
Sole trigger warnings not enough i.e. should be structured into syllabus
o Meant to help avoid distress but either benign or increase anticipatory stress, could
reinforce survivors’ views of their trauma as central to their identity
o Validates some experiences as worthy of a warning but not others, implicit message that
someone is vulnerable an needs that warning in the first place
o Can lead to avoidance of topic altogether cognitive avoidance not an effective coping
strategy long-term
o Content warnings are okay, but not “trigger” warnings not sufficient
Redirect conversation when inappropriate
Benefit of desensitization
o Repeated exposure = more comfortable
o Despite discomfort, students understand importance
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