While trauma-informed care is a term generally used by mental health professionals, the practice can be for anyone’s day-to-day life. Why would a non-mental health professional want to practice being trauma-informed Because it can change the way you see others and their behaviors and help you be a more understanding and empathetic individual.
The simplest way to practice being trauma-informed in your daily life is to walk into any interaction with an open and curious mind.
For example, part of Nexus Family Healing’s trauma-informed care practices includes coming to any human interaction with the understanding that we don’t know what this person has been through or what they’re currently dealing with. And since we don’t know how that person may be feeling, it’s important to slow down our reactionary responses. By approaching others – including clients, families, team members, employees, and external partners – through the lens of curiosity and empathy, it opens the door for a better conversation and potential trusting relationship.
How to Approach A Situation in A Trauma-Informed Manner
It’s important to note that every person reacts to trauma in a different way – think fight or flight responses. Since you may not know how this person is feeling or how they are handling a situation, your first impulse should be to act with compassion. Not speaking over someone, listening, and being aware of your body language – and allow the space between you to feel safe. Be careful not to judge but to seek to understand.
Imagine you’ve spent the last week in the middle of a busy amusement park; kids are screaming, crowds push you around, there’s music and lights and people everywhere. How are you feeling? Most likely, your heartrate is accelerated; your senses are on overload; and you’re a little stressed, anxious, and exhausted. As you interact with people, you might be a little more agitated than normal, might get pushy or angry. Or maybe you recoil, shutdown, and try to avoid interacting with anyone else. This is a simple example of what the stress of trauma could feel like and the resulting behaviors.
If someone was approaching you coming from this situation, in a trauma-informed manner, they may help find a quiet space for you to feel safe, ask you to take a few deep breaths, maybe drink some water, and allow you to adjust. Once you were feeling a little less stressed, then they might ask you some open-ended questions to help them understand the situation, collaboratively identify a solution, and empower you to take the next steps.
Trauma-informed care can start with some simple questions, like:
- Can you tell me how you are feeling?
- What is currently causing you stress?
- What could we do to help you feel comfortable?
This blog article was contributed by Elizabeth Williams, Director of Clinical Services for Nexus Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.