Why does it matter:
Picture this: An individual arrives at your organization who has experienced trauma; has been victimized and abused and is not yet fully engaged in supportive therapy or relationship.
The front desk staff is very busy and does not acknowledge the individual verbally when they first arrive, and when the individual speaks up, the very busy staff does not offer a kind greeting.
The individual immediately feels unseen, on guard, and fearful of upsetting the staff.
This very first, and vital interaction with your organization has created a sense of insecurity and fear, rather than a sense of safety and trust.
This fear will become the experience for this individual of all staff in your organization.
Every engagement, every encounter, every day with each of our clients, with every staff, will impact their ability to form the safety and trust that will be needed for effective delivery of service, and for their healing.
This should give you an idea of the critical role nonclinical staff play in an organization that practices Trauma Informed Care.
Trauma Informed Organizations are not simply those who have sent their clinical staff to a training.
In order for any organization to become truly Trauma Informed, it needs to involve every staff in the organization. Training must be offered in a way that provides practical and healing means for engaging with traumatized clients for the non-clinical team member too.
Discover these six practical ways to help you get started.
- All staff must learn how trauma affects clients
Staff who have a basic understanding of how trauma impacts the brain and body; and how trauma changes the way clients see the world will be more likely to approach their work with a trauma-informed lens. Understanding simple, trauma sensitive ways to engage with clients can help nonclinical staff identify practices to prevent or reduce the likelihood of re-traumatizing a person served.
- Pay attention to your language
What terms does your organization use to describe the behavior of persons served? Rather than labeling or using diagnostic terms, we can acknowledge that some clients are dysregulated. Teaching about Emotional Regulatory Healing to all staff provides basic yet effective understanding of why our clients might present the way they do, and practical strategies for self-regulation for staff,which will lead to the opportunity for co-regulation with clients.
- What Happened to You?
The most important paradigm shift in Trauma Informed Practice, is the switch from ‘what is wrong with you’ to ‘what happened to you’?
Moving away from judgment of our client and into curiosity about their ability to regulate softens the space between client and staff. We turn our focus to how the behavior may be an adaptation to deal with traumatic stress. This is their journey, a very scary journey. We learn not to take it personally.
- Elongate the Exhale
Prevention before Intervention; the trauma informed organization learns preventative practices and puts them in place in order to decrease the need for intervention. The ability of each staff to self-regulate quickly will lead to fewer engagements that end up in re-traumatizing intervention. The fastest way to regulate the nervous system and bring a calm experience to ourselves is by elongating the exhale.
Simply breathe in, and then breathe out slowly, for as long as you can. Repeat X10
Elongating your exhale is an easy way to hack the vagus nerve (look it up!) and decrease the fight, flight or freeze response.
Whether in a crisis situation or an engagement with a new client, using this easy practice not only regulates your nervous system but keeps you open for healing engagement with others. TIP~ practice this for 10 repetitions every hour to keep your system balanced all day every day.
Do it now, x10~ you will be hooked.
- Slow and Low
All staff in the Trauma Informed Organization need to learn fast, easy, effective ways to self-regulate. Another practical skill we teach is Slow and Low.
The traumatized client may be hyper vigilant to sensory input, a common experience post trauma. The auditory experience can quickly regulate or dysregulate post trauma clients. Using our voices in a specific manner can bring calming.
Slow your rate of speech; slow your pace.
Lower your volume, lower your tone of voice.
Practice living Slow and Low, more than a practice when needed, but as a way of maintaining a more mindful and regulated state of being. These simple practices communicate safety and containment for the post trauma client; and, they lead to self-regulation immediately.
- Blessings on your Journey~ a mantra to live by in a trauma filled world
Ultimately, everyone, client and staff, is the expert of own their life. Person-centered practices keep the individual’s goals, choices, and self-determination at the core of their healing, and person-centered plans are often supported by nonclinical or paraprofessional staff. Being person-centered contributes to a client’s ability to make choices in any situation This is a critical element of trauma-informed care; empowering the client.
If we are providing the safety and acceptance needed for healing, and the client, for whatever reason does not choose to participate, is not ready to participate or cannot yet participate, we can maintain respect and compassion for them either way.
This is their journey; you can repeat to yourself, ‘blessings on their journey.’ Love them, care about them, but you are not sent here to control them or their outcome. Provide the safe space, and allow them entrance when they choose.
A Trauma Informed Organization is comprised of Trauma Informed Staff. All Staff.
All staff can be trained together, co-create a safe space for all clients, and with adequate support and integration every staff can have a healing impact on people served through your practice.
The Alvarado Consulting and Treatment Group trains and supports diverse organizations who serve traumatized others. We can support you too.