Trauma-informed Design + Social Work + Design Teams with Rachael Dietkus — DT101 E81

Rachael Dietkus is a clinical social worker and certified trauma professional dedicated to trauma-responsive practices in design. We talk about trauma-informed design, social work, and why design teams need a social worker.

Listen to Learn About:

Portrait of Rachael Dietkus

  • The intersection of design and social work
  • Trauma-informed design
  • Resources for designers looking to be more trauma-responsive in their work
  • The benefits of including social workers on design teams
  • Social Workers Who Design

Our Guest

Rachael Dietkus is a social worker immersed in design. She is a licensed clinical social worker, design researcher, and strategist, with experience in the non-profit space, federal government, and higher education. Rachael is deeply committed to trauma-informed and trauma-responsive design practices and is the founder of Social Workers Who Design.

Show Highlights

[02:21] Rachael’s undergraduate studies in photography and art design.
[02:59] The Sociology 101 course that changed everything.
[03:50] Working on the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois helped Rachael to see the intersection between social justice and the creative world.
[05:14] The hunger for more intersectionality and collaboration between disciplines.
[06:11] Her work with the Champaign-Urbana Design Organization was another chance to experience that creative collaboration.
[07:37] Rachael’s natural gravitation toward social justice projects.
[08:16] Championing the need for social workers on design teams, and for trauma-informed design.
[09:22] What does it mean to be trauma-informed in the context of design?
[10:40] The six guiding principles of trauma-informed care used in the U.S.
[14:02] Defining trauma in the context of design.
[15:31] Rachael shares a personal story of trauma.
[20:30] Rachael talks about Tad Hirsch’s article comparing the design research process and aspects of psychotherapy.
[21:04] The potential darker side of rapport-building during the design process.
[26:19] Ways that designers can practice their way into being more trauma-responsive.
[27:11] Books for learning more about trauma.
[31:58] Getting asked to do workshops and trainings on trauma-informed design.
[36:01] The importance of practice and evolving in one’s design work.
[37:27] Seeing design through a social work lens.
[40:31] What is social work?
[41:57] Becoming an ambassador for social work and social workers.
[43:07] The interesting similarities between human-centered design and social work.
[43:54] The benefits of having a social worker on a design team.
[48:44] Social workers can be the bridge to the people being served.
[49:48] Social workers are often already there in the design problem spaces doing the work.
[50:56] Rachael talks about Social Workers Who Design.
[55:38] Social workers are, by necessity, system designers because they work within complex systems.


Rachael on LinkedIn
Rachael on Women Talk Design
Social Workers Who Design
Social Workers Who Design on Instagram
Trauma-Informed Design with Rachael Dietkus and Sarah Fathallah
Siebel Center for Design
Healing Community: Trauma-Informed Design with Rachael Dietkus
Trauma-Informed Design with Glennette Clark and Rachael Dietkus
Design Lab with Bon Ku podcast: Ep 17: Trauma Responsive Design | Rachael Dietkus
Design Thinking for Social Workers: Creating a New Competency: Rachael Dietkus, Lisa Mercer, and Rachel Switzky
Practicing Without a License: Design Research as Psychotherapy

Book Recommendations:
Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others, by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky
My Grandmother’s Hands, by Resmaa Menakem
What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, by Oprah Winfrey and Dr Bruce Perry
Decolonizing Trauma Work: Indigenous Stories and Strategies, by Renee Linklater
Healing Developmental Trauma: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship, by Laurence Heller and Aline LaPierre
Beyond Sticky Notes: Co-design for Real: Mindsets, methods and movements, by Kelly Ann McKercher

Design Thinking 101 Episodes You Might Like

Trauma-Informed Design + Participatory Design Perils + Research with Vulnerable Populations with Sarah Fathallah — DT101 E72

Nursing + Service Design + Healthcare Innovation with Brittany Merkle — DT101 E38

Design for Mental Health: Creating an Effective Response to Student Loneliness with Denise Ho and Andrew Baker — DT101 E60

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