Trauma-Informed Care is Not a Program For Your Clients 

 

Understanding the long-term impact of developmental trauma, how trauma impacts the brain, and the science of resiliency is a powerful first step toward change.  It is exciting to watch people begin to let this knowledge soak in… and even more exciting when they begin to ask “Now what?”  As I have worked with organizations across the State of South Dakota, I have found that often what they are really looking for is the curriculum or recipe book that they can follow for their clients or students.  Even those that realize that it is a paradigm shift - or a way of doing and seeing things differently - are often still focused on what they should be doing differently with their students or clients.  For them, it is still about the best technique to use with those they serve.  

Although incorporating trauma-informed practice with those we serve is important, it really shouldn’t be the first step.  To be truly trauma-informed, one must first take a look inward.   Trauma-informed starts at the individual level.  To be the best for those we serve, we must model the behaviors and techniques we are teaching.  In any situation, the greatest tool we have is our ability to self-regulate.  Emotional regulation allows us to stay focused on the person in front of us, helping them to feel safe and heard so they can begin to make positive changes.  We ourselves must practice these skills, make self-care a priority, and engage in supportive relationships.  We must be aware of our own trauma and how that may trigger or impact us in our work. 

But to do that effectively, we need organizations and leaders that provide the resources, time, and safety to practice these skills.  When organizations are brave enough to do this for themselves, it will flow into the work they do, and with the clients they serve.  Parallel process thinking tells us that the dynamics of one system will be picked up and re-enacted by another system.  So if we want those we serve to feel safe and empowered, it is critical that those working with them feel the same. This means leadership style, organizational culture, policies, and how change and conflict are handled must reflect a trauma-informed approach.  We can not expect our professional helpers to leave a meeting where ego and fear are at the forefront, then be able to effectively direct clients to engage in emotional regulation and healthy communication.  We need our organizations to be trauma-informed from the ground up. 

Trauma-informed is not a program you adopt.  And that’s a good thing…since programs don’t help people, people help people.  True healing happens in relationship.  So now what?  Now you take what you know about the ACEs and Resiliency sciences and apply it.  Just start with yourself first.  

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Patricia Berendsen posted:

Tanya,

A great reflection!  I totally resonate with what you wrote. I think it is both top down and bottom up efforts...we need more courageous leaders who will dare to explore their own vulnerability and set the conditions for safety in the workplace so that employees can do the same... 

Thank you Patricia. I often find the world of trauma-informed care and Brene Brown's work on vulnerability, authenticity, and leadership intersecting.  

Jondi Whitis posted:

Wonderful embracing of the radical, compassionate self-care we must undertake in order to be our authentic selves, to be whole, comfortable in our skin and balanced in our being. That is the state from which we are able to be of the greatest service to our life, our purpose and to others.

Bravo for such a beautifully written essay!

Thank you Jondi.  I have to admit my essay is written as much as a reminder for myself, as it is for others.  

Cissy White (ACEs Connection Staff) posted:

TANYA:

I'm sharing this widely. If this is what most people meant when they talk about trauma-informed anything, the world would be a different place. Also, this part that you wrote below is EXCELLENT parenting advice and a TALL ORDER for those of us parenting with developmental trauma, ACEs and while post-traumatically stressed. Before I was a parent, I'm not even sure I would have understood what this meant or known 1)how hard this is and 2)how healing this is, how much safety it creates for other human beings (and therefore helps those of us who didn't get it realize, RUH=ROH and AHA at the same time). 

 In any situation, the greatest tool we have is our ability to self-regulate.  Emotional regulation allows us to stay focused on the person in front of us, helping them to feel safe and heard so they can begin to make positive changes.  We ourselves must practice these skills, make self-care a priority, and engage in supportive relationships.  We must be aware of our own trauma and how that may trigger or impact us in our work. 

I think we must focus on the individual AND systems but mostly individuals within systems and how we impact and are impacted, how we change and are changed - by both, how some communities are disproportionately harmed or re-traumatized by individuals and systems and how some are disproportionately advantaged and supported by individuals and systems. This is a brilliant piece of writing. THANK YOU! 

Cissy

Tagging @Emily Read Daniels: Em: This sounds a lot like your approach. Cis

Cissy, thank you so much for your comment.  I 100% agree that we must focus on the individual and the system.  People just seem a lot more eager to point at the system rather than themselves.  I appreciate you sharing this and all that you do. Parenting my daughter has reminded me many times that everything is easier in the abstract

Wonderful embracing of the radical, compassionate self-care we must undertake in order to be our authentic selves, to be whole, comfortable in our skin and balanced in our being. That is the state from which we are able to be of the greatest service to our life, our purpose and to others.

Bravo for such a beautifully written essay!

TANYA:

I'm sharing this widely. If this is what most people meant when they talk about trauma-informed anything, the world would be a different place. Also, this part that you wrote below is EXCELLENT parenting advice and a TALL ORDER for those of us parenting with developmental trauma, ACEs and while post-traumatically stressed. Before I was a parent, I'm not even sure I would have understood what this meant or known 1)how hard this is and 2)how healing this is, how much safety it creates for other human beings (and therefore helps those of us who didn't get it realize, RUH=ROH and AHA at the same time). 

 In any situation, the greatest tool we have is our ability to self-regulate.  Emotional regulation allows us to stay focused on the person in front of us, helping them to feel safe and heard so they can begin to make positive changes.  We ourselves must practice these skills, make self-care a priority, and engage in supportive relationships.  We must be aware of our own trauma and how that may trigger or impact us in our work. 

I think we must focus on the individual AND systems but mostly individuals within systems and how we impact and are impacted, how we change and are changed - by both, how some communities are disproportionately harmed or re-traumatized by individuals and systems and how some are disproportionately advantaged and supported by individuals and systems. This is a brilliant piece of writing. THANK YOU! 

Cissy

Tagging @Emily Read Daniels: Em: This sounds a lot like your approach. Cis

Tanya,

A great reflection!  I totally resonate with what you wrote. I think it is both top down and bottom up efforts...we need more courageous leaders who will dare to explore their own vulnerability and set the conditions for safety in the workplace so that employees can do the same... 

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