Mental health professionals at Diversus Health practice trauma-informed care every day. Practicing trauma-informed care can change the way we perceive others and the behaviors they demonstrate, helping us to be more understanding and empathetic towards each individual’s unique situation. It is important, as non-mental health professionals, to learn how we can be trauma-informed in our daily lives, in order to develop the skills necessary to practice compassion and empathy toward individuals who have suffered or are currently suffering from traumatic events and experiences.
“It’s important we understand for ourselves and those we encounter throughout our lives that experiencing difficulty in painful life situations isn’t a reflection of weakness,” says Dr. Lacey Savage, Organizational Psychologist at Diversus Health. “Feeling overwhelmed and experiencing pain and loss are a part of our shared humanity. When we utilize our courage to work through difficult experiences, we become stronger and more able to live full and passionate lives.”
What is Trauma-Informed Care?
According to the Trauma-Informed Care Implementation Resource Center, “trauma-informed care shifts the focus from ‘what’s wrong with you?’ to ‘what happened to you?’” Trauma can occur when we feel overwhelmed beyond our resources to cope with a difficult experience, and it’s possible for everyone to experience trauma in their life. Having a trauma-informed approach to care means acknowledging that we all live full lives. We need to have an understanding of the complete person and their life situation in order to provide effective care to aid in their healing.
Trauma-informed care seeks to:
- Recognize the overall impact of trauma on an individual
- Understand various paths to recovery
- Identify the signs and symptoms of trauma in others (and ourselves)
- Integrate knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices
- Encourage healthy coping mechanisms to manage trauma in everyday life
The core principles of trauma-informed care include:
- Trustworthiness & transparency
- Peer support
- Humility & Responsiveness
The easiest way to practice being trauma-informed is to engage in daily interactions with an open and curious mind. Part of developing a trauma-informed mindset is understanding that we do not know how another person may be feeling, what they have been through, or what they are currently dealing with. It is important to slow down and approach others through a lens of curiosity and empathy. This way we open the door to better, more constructive conversation by providing the opportunity to build relationships grounded in trust.
How to Engage in Trauma-Informed Situations
Every individual reacts to and processes trauma differently. We have all heard of “fight or flight” responses. Without understanding how a person feels or how they are handling a situation, our first interaction with someone struggling with a traumatic experience must be to engage with compassion. It is important to let the other person speak freely about their experience without interrupting. Active listening can include making eye-contact, nodding to show them that they are being heard, and being aware of and demonstrating positive body language. Allow the space to feel safe and non-judgmental. Seek to understand rather than to respond.
“How we engage with ourselves and those around us can encourage growth toward wholeness when we create space for understanding and empathy,” says Dr. Savage.
Engaging in trauma-informed situations may look like helping someone to find a quiet space where they feel safe, practicing deep breathing techniques, drinking some water, and allowing the individual to adjust after a traumatic experience. Once an individual has had time to calm down or de-stress, we can ask them a few open-ended questions to help them understand the situation, identify a possible solution, and empower them to take the next steps in getting the care they need.
We can engage in trauma-informed conversation by starting with a few simple questions, including:
- Can you tell me how you are feeling?
- What is causing you distress?
- What can we do to help you feel more comfortable?
We all experience trauma at some point in our lives. In some cases, trauma may make it difficult for individuals to maintain healthy relationships with others. Practicing trauma-informed care offers the opportunity for individuals to engage more fully in their mental health care with professional providers, develop trusting relationships with others, and improve their long-term recovery outcomes.
You or someone you love may benefit by learning more about how to practice trauma-informed care. Contact us at Diversus Health to request an appointment to speak to a professional mental health provider today.
*If you need immediate assistance, call our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.