Often the word trauma conjures up very specific and dramatic events, but trauma can also be more insidious and subtle. For many, it's a childhood spent feeling unseen and unheard, despite the fact things looked normal to outsiders. For those with a history of trauma, accessing certain services can feel frightening and can prove to be a difficult and disappointing experience.
As a care provider, becoming trauma informed is a gateway to better client relationships and being able to offer more compassionate care.
Whether you are a naturopath, doula, midwife, massage therapist, acupuncturist, doctor or other care provider, there is a high likelihood that many of your patients or clients have experienced some type of trauma at some point in their lives.
What does it mean to be trauma informed?
Being trauma informed means that you are educated about the nature of trauma and its multitude of effects on a person’s life. It means tailoring your services so that you take the client’s reality into account and place a priority on their sense of safety and well-being.
What is trauma?
Trauma occurs when an individual feels emotionally and/or physically powerless, overwhelmed, unable to cope and cannot integrate the emergent feelings and sensations. This may be a single incident or it may be a long term environment that continually erodes a person's sense of safety and agency.
What is traumatic for one person may not be for another. It is a person's subjective understanding and experience of a situation that is critical.
How is trauma experienced?
“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Here are some basic steps you can take to provide care that is more trauma informed:
1) Recognize that trauma experiences are not rare or unusual events. Your client or patient may have a history of trauma that they may not disclose or even recognize as trauma.
2) Make establishing safety a priority in all your client relationships by breaking down power hierarchies.
a. This can be done by emphasising a client’s right to make their own informed choices and putting the locus of control in their hands. Consider all interactions to be a collaborative process.
b. Learn about the impact of gender, race, sexuality, culture and class on people’s experience of trauma. Consider how these factors may affect your interactions with clients.
3) Avoid judgement and shaming. Many presenting problems or issues that a client is struggling with may be coping mechanisms that were adopted to get them through difficult or overwhelming circumstances. Focus on the resilience that has allowed the client to get this far, and support them to increase adaptability by finding coping mechanisms that are better suited to present circumstances.
For more information on how to be a trauma informed practitioner, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org