Becoming Trauma Informed

Becoming trauma informed is not about becoming a trauma specialist. Rather it understands the role that each person can play in supporting a person’s recovery, from the first person to greet someone as they enter a building for the first time, the building engineer to the CEO or Executive Director. Everyone has a role to play and can make a difference in creating a culture and climate that promotes safety, trust and compassion. These are the hallmarks of being trauma informed. Remember the smallest acts of kindness and understanding can be the most powerful.

When a human service program or system seeks to become trauma-informed, every part of its organization, management, and service delivery is assessed and modified to ensure a basic understanding of how trauma impacts the life of an individual who is seeking services. Trauma informed organizations and systems are based on an understanding of the particular vulnerabilities and/or triggers that people affected by trauma experience (that traditional service delivery approaches may make worse), so that services can be more supportive, compassionate, effective and avoid re-traumatisation. (SAMHSA)

This knowledge about trauma is not limited to a privileged few within an organization but belongs to everyone. Not everyone within an organization or system may have all the same knowledge and information, some may have more than others, everyone however should have a basic understanding of trauma and the principles of trauma informed care. Remember that the first step towards becoming trauma informed is accepting that trauma is pervasive, assuming that all the people you are helping have experienced a trauma and understanding that trauma is a defining and organizing experience that shapes the core of a person’s identify. The second step is to view trauma as an injury.

Trauma is viewed as an injury and not an illness, sickness, weakness or character flaw. This shifts the focus from asking people “What is wrong with you” to “What has happened to you”.

A trauma-informed approach is designed to avoid re-traumatizing those who seek assistance, to focus on “safety first” and a commitment to “do no harm,” and to facilitate participation and meaningful involvement of consumers and families, and people affected by trauma in the planning of services and programs. (Harris and Fallot, 2001). Trauma Informed organizations have adopted the credo “Above all else, do no harm”.

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