Dr. Ellen Katz

Professional Biography

Ellen Katz joined the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work in 2014 as a Lecturer and Director of Continuing Education. In 2016, she became an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream and the Continuing Education Program transitioned to the School of Continuing Studies. In 2020 she was promoted to Associate Professor, Teaching Stream. Prior to 2014, Ellen held roles as a Faculty-Field Liaison in the Practicum Office, and an Educational Coordinator, an Adjunct Lecturer and an Assistant Professor, Status-Only in the community. She currently holds a joint appointment as an Adjunct Lecturer at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre. 

Her research and clinical interests focus on mindfulness and contemplative practices as informed by Buddhist thought, family therapy, simulation, and the development of competence in both students and clinicians. The latter interest has led to her work with Professor Marion Bogo in developing novel approaches to assessment of student and practitioner competence. 

Ellen was a Senior Investigator with the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute, the Dalai Lama’s initiative to bring science and contemplative practice together in developing interventions to ease human suffering and increase knowledge of how mindfulness can be used in that process. She was awarded the Larry Enkin Innovation in Teaching and Simulation Award from the Faculty in 2019. 

Reflection Questions

What assumptions do you usually make about mindfulness? Are these always correct?

Why might mindfulness so often be misperceived as always relaxing?

What other descriptive feeling words, other than the ones Dr. Katz used, would best describe the sensations in your body right now?

Why is trauma-informed mindfulness so important?

How might a trauma-informed approach to mindfulness improve your experience of mindfulness and enhance its contributions to your life?

If a mindfulness session becomes too intense, how then might we cope with the big feelings that have arisen?

Further Resources

Embodied experience: Living from the heart – In this interview, Ellen discusses how she teaches her students about experiential and embodied learning, and meditation practices, in an undergraduate course on mindfulness and mental health interventions, and in graduate courses on mindfulness for social work students who may apply this one day in the field.

Trauma-Informed Mindfulness – This is a short article that explains how to tailor the mindfulness practice to ensure best outcomes for those who have a history of trauma.  

A User’s Guide to Mindfulness: Knowing When to Use Mindfulness and When not

Listen to Dr. Katz give a talk to social work students regarding using mindfulness in their training and practice. She poses a very important question: Why do we make the assumption that mindfulness is always positive and reduces stress? She goes on to explore definitions and histories of mindfulness, noting that mindfulness is present in all spiritual traditions. She then explores mindfulness in the context of trauma, and the risks and rewards involved. To teach about this, she guides us in experiencing the body, as opposed to thinking about it. Finally, she makes suggestions about how to practice trauma-informed mindfulness.