By Peter Gamache, Ph.D. & Jackie Sue Griffin, MBA, MS, Turnaround Life, Inc.
Trauma and the way we approach it systematically still leaves a lot to be desired in 2019. It’s a widespread issue with many different possible causes, affecting people regardless of their age, background, gender, or race and ethnicity. Since it is both a pervasive and complex issue, it requires careful programming and a comprehensive, systematic approach to be successfully treated.
Unfortunately, some processes currently in use can re-traumatize the very people they’ve been designed to help. Developing a comprehensive framework for trauma-informed care is, therefore, more necessary than ever. Let’s have a closer look at trauma and how our systems of care need to change to have a trauma-informed approach:
SAMHSA defines trauma as, “the result of an event, series of events or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening and that has lasting, adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”
The three keywords in this definition are “event,” “experience,” and “effect.” Certain events and circumstances are only traumatic if the individual experiences them as such and if that experience leaves lasting adverse effects on them. With this definition, it’s possible to understand how existing systems of care might re-traumatize individuals even while trying to help them — by creating new, traumatizing situations.
Acknowledging the Needs of the Trauma-Informed System
A trauma-informed system of care might be easily defined as a system that understands the widespread impact of trauma and has mechanisms in place that help people on the road to recovery. It’s important for everyone working in a trauma-informed organization or system to be able to recognize signs of trauma, respond to them effectively, and aim to resist re-traumatizing the individuals that they’re trying to help.
Perhaps the most crucial factor for this type of approach is understanding the various ways in which trauma can affect people. It doesn’t have to be currently manifesting to be classified as such. Some people might have already developed coping strategies such as substance abuse, which can make their recovery more difficult. If trauma is well-understood, it’s easier for organizations and systems to provide proper care.
Key Principles of Trauma-Informed Care
To create a trauma-informed care framework, it’s important for organizations to adhere to principles of promoting resilience and recovery for those who are afflicted. In short, that includes encouraging family and community engagement and collaboration, as well as providing empowerment and choice to people affected by trauma. Inspiring trustworthiness and making them feel safe in their environment is a big goal for trauma-informed care systems.
Of course, it isn’t enough to only develop a trauma-informed care framework — it also has to be effectively implemented. Doing so will help traumatized people build resilience and recover while also solving problems related to their traumatizing experiences.
Here at Turnaround Life, Inc., we aim to help organizations and programs that make it possible for people to turn their lives around. For more information about us, visit our website.
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