Trauma-Informed Practice is a strengths-based framework grounded in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma, that emphasises physical, psychological, and emotional safety for everyone, and that creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment (Hopper et al., 2010).
Trauma-informed care and practice recognises the prevalence of trauma and its impact on the emotional, psychological and social wellbeing of people and communities. Awareness of trauma, including of complex trauma has progressed over the last 20 years. This includes the development of the framework called “Trauma-informed care and practice”. This framework is informed by new knowledge around attachment, development, working with the body, memory and an understanding of self. Frameworks of care and treatment are changing from purely bio-medical (medicine and psychiatry) and/or purely psychoanalytical (psychology) to include the psycho-social (trauma-informed) and a recovery focus (recovery-oriented).
What is Blue Knot’s vision for a trauma-informed world?
Trauma affects us all, directly or indirectly. Many people live with the ongoing effects of past and present overwhelming stress (trauma). Despite the large numbers of people affected, many of us often don’t think of the possibility that someone we meet, speak with or support may have experienced trauma. This makes us less likely to recognise it. Keeping the possibility of trauma on our radar means keeping the sensitivities and vulnerabilities of people who may be trauma survivors in mind. It means being respectful, acknowledging and understanding.
Having a basic understanding of how stress can affect any of us can help this process. Knowing this will make us less likely to fuel other people’s stress levels. This means paying attention to the way we engage with other people, as well as to ‘what’ we do. It also means thinking about what may have happened to someone, rather than judging what is ‘wrong’ with them.
Our interactions with one another are always important. They are especially important for people living with the impacts of trauma. Trauma interrupts the connections between different systems of functioning in the brain. People recover from trauma when disruptions between different levels of functioning – physical, emotional and cognitive (thinking) – become connected or ‘integrated’ again.
It is important to understand that:
· Positive experiences in our relationships can help us heal.
· Negative experiences make our emotional and psychological problems worse.
We should not underestimate the capacity of positive interactions, even in routine interactions, to be soothing and validating. This applies to all of us, and especially to people with trauma histories. Support is crucial to the process of recovery.
Positive experiences of relationships are central to trauma recovery. They are also important to general well-being. By employing trauma-informed principles, we can build a ‘trauma-informed’ society. This create possibilities for psychological and physical healing on a grand scale.
What are trauma-informed services?
Trauma often affects the way people approach potentially helpful relationships (Fallot and Harris, 2001). This is because many survivors feel unsafe. Many lack trust or live in fear. Becoming trauma-informed is about supporting people to feel safe enough in their interactions with services. To build trust, and help people overcome their fear and sense of betrayal.
Becoming trauma-informed is not an end state, but a process. It requires a step-wise implementation and review over time. The journey to becoming a trauma-informed service has been conceptualised into 4 sages (Miesler and Myers, 2013):
1. Trauma aware: Staff understand trauma, its effects and survivor adaptations.
2. Trauma sensitive: The workplace can operationalise some concepts of a trauma-informed approach.
3. Trauma responsive: Individuals and the organisation recognise and respond to trauma enabling changes in behaviour and strengthening resilience and protective factors.
4. Trauma-informed: The culture of the whole system, including all work practices and settings reflects a trauma-informed approach.
· `are informed about, and sensitive to, trauma-related issues’ (Jennings, 2004)
· are attuned to the possibility of trauma in the lives of all clients
· commit to and act on the core principles of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment (Fallot and Harris, 2001)
· have reconsidered and evaluated all elements in light of the role and impacts of trauma
· apply this understanding to design systems which accommodate the vulnerabilities of trauma survivors, and enable services which minimise the risk of re-traumatisation
· emphasise physical and emotional safety for all – clients, practitioners and service providers
· recognise symptoms as adapative rather than pathological
· collaborate with clients, and affirm their strengths and resources
· recognise the importance of respect, information, hope and possibilities for connection
A key feature of trauma-informed practice is the way in which a service is offered - i.e. the whole context in which it is provided - not just `what’ it entails. As healing from interpersonal trauma occurs in relationship, the wider relational context in which healing takes place is critical.
Want to become trauma-informed?
Becoming `trauma-informed’ does not require clinical training or specialist skills. It requires basic knowledge only. When put into practice, this knowledge reduces the likelihood of stressful interactions and helps reduce the effects of prior traumas. Relating to one another in a trauma-informed way ‘does no harm’ and focusses on the way in which we treat one another as human beings.
To access the trauma-informed guidelines in Blue Knot Foundation’s publication: Practice Guidelines for Treatment of Complex Trauma and Trauma Informed Care and Service Delivery click here.
Blue Knot Foundation delivers trauma-informed professional development training to diverse personnel across sectors. To find out more about our trauma-informed professional development training click here.
To inquire about trauma-informed supervision or consultancy for trauma-informed organisational change click on the links.