How to be Trauma-Informed – for Real!

 

Okay, we’ve got it: Not “What’s wrong with you?” but “What happened to you?” That explosive outburst? The child who cannot concentrate at school? The domestic violence survivor who is in a constant state of hyper-vigilance? Yes, most of us in family services are now able to recognize trauma-symptoms and respond with empathy… most of the time.

But what does it mean to be truly trauma-informed? For a start, it means that we have patience with others and ourselves as we seek to acquire the skills and attitudes of a trauma-informed practice. Calling out other people for being judgmental? Yes, this and many other ironies litter the path of learning this new language because we just so enjoy being right! It is easy to become smug or ‘preachy’ when we have all these wonderful new ‘dos and don’ts’ to crib from.

(click on the image for a larger version)

Echo has put together an info-graphic to help us see the difference between a trauma-informed and non-trauma-informed paradigm. We wanted to create a graphic that illustrated not a dichotomy of  ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but a journey – and a difficult journey at that, if we are willing to honest about ourselves and put in the work to transform attitudes we probably absorbed along with our mother’s milk.

How does it work? Take for example ‘labeling and pathologizing’. This is not just something we leave to the mental health professionals – we’ve all done it at one time or another: “They’re crazy… controlling… hyper… manipulative… have anger issues…”

Labeling is not just a matter of language – it’s an inability to look beneath the behavior to understand what that person is trying to communicate. Is the explosion about fear of losing control when losing control in the past has meant you got hurt? Is your kid’s cussing about trying to tell you, in the strongest terms they know, how strongly they feel? No one acts against their own self-interest, so if the behavior seems irrational or counter-productive there is something deeper going on, something you have not yet perceived.

Similarly, we can begin to shift our perspective and see that ‘problem behavior’ is actually a solution to the person who is engaging in it. Smoking and drinking provide temporary relief to unmanageable pain. Having children when you are not in a place to be able to support them or love them adequately may seem like a problem to social services, but to the person concerned this could be an attempt to build the loving family they never had. Obesity? Could be useful for repudiating any sexual overtures for those who have been sexually abused.

We hope that this graphic can get you thinking about your own journey toward becoming trauma-informed. If you would like to know more about childhood trauma and developing a trauma-informed practice, sign up for our “Working with Childhood Trauma” training here, or contact Azucena Ortiz for information about setting up a training for your organization.

We also have the infographic in Spanish - click here for Spanish version. 

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Thanks Louise! This infographic is an excellent tool for humanizing trauma informed relationships as well as professional work. Language is enactment of relationship as well as communication of the authentic helping identity which is sadly missing with many well meaning lay people and professionals. Accessible tools such as this advances our helping capability and assist healing in individuals, families and communities as well as ourselves.  

Thank you Louise Godbold for this infographic (the lived experience definitely - and the Questions) and for initiating this post.

And thank you Christine Cissy White : the SixSigma is an absolute gold mine. I've been asking in this fashion for very long now (not-rocket-science I call it!).

But I really chuckled and smiled at that first paragraph <<  Asking “Why?” may be a favorite technique of your three year old child in driving you crazy, but it could teach you a valuable Six Sigma quality lesson. The 5 Whys is a technique used in the Analyze phase of the Six Sigma DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology. It is a great Six Sigma tool that does not involve data segmentation, hypothesis testing, regression or other advanced statistical tools, and in many cases can be completed without a data collection plan.  >>

This is also why I have been 'inviting' and asked these questions from the very beginning of my work with TRE (if the person wants to of course), and long before : since I found Alice Miller I guess. 

I enjoyed querying the word SIGMA and to find it can mean both Sum and Deviation !  Is this why the geeky heads call MATHS so simple and wonderful...   

Emma-Lee Chase posted:

re #3 in the picture aka Judging. Judging is problematic as it makes thing 'unsafe'. Judith Herman wrote about 'creating Safety' being the Stage 1 phase of her trauma recovery model (in her book).

I did an anti-oppressive women's trauma counselling program here in Toronto and we were taught to refrain from judging. Instead, taking a stance of non-judgemental or reflective 'observing' is preferred. e.g. compassionate inquiry.

An example (harm reduction) would be 'what does your drug DO for you?' vs 'don't do drugs' or 'don't be a crackhead'. Then users, if made to feel safe, are more likely to share that  'my drug relieves my anxiety' or 'my drug helps me forget the abuse', etc.

A quality management training program called Six Sigma talks about the important of two tools. The first is Root Cause Analysis. The second is called 'The 5 Whys'. In that, the idea is that we never get close to the true cause of a problem until we keep asking 'why', six more times, after each answer is given.

I mention this, as too many people and Systems focus on 'surface' appearance of an issue (e.g. drug use or mental health symptoms) vs getting down to the REAL core issues.

Emma-Lee:
It's so great to hear from, learn from you. Would you mind sharing a link or article for those of us who want to learn more about the Root Cause Analysis and Six Stigma talks? I'm sure all of us in the Parenting with ACEs group would love to learn more. 

Cissy

Louise Godbold posted:
Emma-Lee Chase posted:

re #3 in the picture aka Judging. Judging is problematic as it makes thing 'unsafe'. Judith Herman wrote about 'creating Safety' being the Stage 1 phase of her trauma recovery model (in her book).

Totally agree with you, Emma-Lee. We run a Seeking Safety™️ program as a stage one for parents who come to us with a lot of trauma, recognising the importance of Judith Herman's three stages. We also train people to become facilitators of the program. It was developed by Lisa Najavits, formerly of Harvard. 

You're right that judging just closes people off - both the one who judges and the person being judged. And yet we so love to do it...! We use the term 'compassionate witness' to describe our role with those who come to us for help.

Lou

Lou:
I'd love to learn more about the Seeking Safety program and I'm sure others would as well. Would you be able to share a link or a blog post for the Parenting with ACEs group? Cissy 

Emma-Lee Chase posted:

re #3 in the picture aka Judging. Judging is problematic as it makes thing 'unsafe'. Judith Herman wrote about 'creating Safety' being the Stage 1 phase of her trauma recovery model (in her book).

Totally agree with you, Emma-Lee. We run a Seeking Safety™️ program as a stage one for parents who come to us with a lot of trauma, recognising the importance of Judith Herman's three stages. We also train people to become facilitators of the program. It was developed by Lisa Najavits, formerly of Harvard. 

You're right that judging just closes people off - both the one who judges and the person being judged. And yet we so love to do it...! We use the term 'compassionate witness' to describe our role with those who come to us for help.

Lou

re #3 in the picture aka Judging. Judging is problematic as it makes thing 'unsafe'. Judith Herman wrote about 'creating Safety' being the Stage 1 phase of her trauma recovery model (in her book).

I did an anti-oppressive women's trauma counselling program here in Toronto and we were taught to refrain from judging. Instead, taking a stance of non-judgemental or reflective 'observing' is preferred. e.g. compassionate inquiry.

An example (harm reduction) would be 'what does your drug DO for you?' vs 'don't do drugs' or 'don't be a crackhead'. Then users, if made to feel safe, are more likely to share that  'my drug relieves my anxiety' or 'my drug helps me forget the abuse', etc.

A quality management training program called Six Sigma talks about the important of two tools. The first is Root Cause Analysis. The second is called 'The 5 Whys'. In that, the idea is that we never get close to the true cause of a problem until we keep asking 'why', six more times, after each answer is given.

I mention this, as too many people and Systems focus on 'surface' appearance of an issue (e.g. drug use or mental health symptoms) vs getting down to the REAL core issues.

Thank you for this. Really well done and the article that goes with it too. This is definitely a new paradigm for many of us. I'm currently finished up my training in Somatic Experiencing and we talk a lot about the "what's wrong" paradigm most of us were conditioned into. Seeing beneath the surface and understanding that all actions are a type of communication will go a long way to heal us all. <3

Thank you - Brilliant. I will share - and I love the last line....  "Consider also lived experience."  As a survivor, professionals did more harm than good,  making me believe that they knew better than I, on what I was feeling/thinking/needing.  

Survivors need to feel acknowledgement, and sometimes that alone is more healing than anything. Someone hearing, seeing, understanding and accepting them and what happened. 

Thank you! 

The bottom one stands out to me. Trauma informed care consider also lived experience. In all the interactions I have seen, a profound switch happens when we share an experience. We make a connection built on common ground. We feel a sense of family and belonging. To walk along a road to recovery beside someone who has already succeeded, is to learn how to play soccer from someone who really knows how to play the game.

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