Trauma informed is a bit of a buzz word and not very clear about what it means; it covers a lot but in essence it is about relating to people in a way that helps them feel psychologically safe.
There is no standard definition of that TIC is but most people use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) definition:
- people realize the prevalence of trauma,
- recognize the impact and responses to trauma,
- and resist practices that could cause more harm
- (I then add – create the conditions that help people heal)
We know unresolved childhood trauma is more common that we think & has a huge impact on how children develop physically and emotionally, which then impacts their life as an adult. TIC involves understanding the different forms of trauma, the different ways it can damage & why. The behaviours & beliefs children had to adopt in order to survive are often what society then criticizes them for as adults, & is ignorant to how hard it is to change those survival strategies; it also ignores the physical effects on the brain caused by trauma. In effect we are punishing adults for having trauma as a child.
We know that if that child has at least one safe adult to support them it minimises the damage caused; unfortunately most adults we see in services had no-one to support them, or spoke about it and were dismissed. In addition having a safe adult later in life is the most effective way to help them recover.
But what do we mean by a safe adult? It is not just being nice, kind or compassionate (abusers are that at times), it comes from within – how you respond, your internal emotional state and more. People who have experienced trauma can become very sensitive to others emotions and have learnt to hide if they feel unsafe so we need to be proactive & keep improving how to help the most vulnerable feel safe.
It is not our clients job to trust us & open up – it is our job to be trustworthy enough that they want to engage & do so.
It is our job to learn how, & not blame them if they don’t.
Of course this doesn’t mean we don’t set behaviour expectations – both with clients & staff, but we do it in a way that is safe for them so a big part of being trauma informed is learning how to walk that line – help every one feel safe and have structure too. It is possible.
TIC is taught to the level you need for your role & often doesn’t require you to talk to others about trauma, and definitely doesn’t expect you to be a therapist. It can be a new way of working for services though as most were developed on outdated understanding, but once you learn the principles it can be easier to work out the practical details and adapt to each situation.
Part 2 of my old video sessions explains more (but I have since updated my knowledge)