Nexus Family Healing has been working over the past several years to incorporate trauma-informed practices into every aspect of our care. Trauma-informed care is a growingly common buzzword in the health, education, and social services industries as we learn more about how past experiences can impact a person’s brain development and life functioning throughout their lives.
If you’re not a mental health professional, this may seem like industry jargon. But, if you or your child are needing mental health care, it becomes an important piece to your journey.
So, what does trauma-informed care really mean?
Research has shown that trauma can impact brain development, subsequently impacting a person’s emotional and cognitive development. And, while trauma can be defined differently for everyone, most people interacting with mental health and social services have experienced trauma of some kind. This means, as a service provider, we must understand how trauma impacts our clients’ growth and what intervention work best for their treatment.
How Nexus Incorporates Trauma-Informed Practices
Nexus uses the definition set by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which deems a trauma-informed organization recognizes and responds to the impact of traumatic stress on the involved children, caregivers, and service providers. The employees infuse trauma awareness, knowledge, and activities into their company culture, their programming, training, and policies – all in an effort to maximize physical and psychological safety and facilitate recovery of the child and family.
At Nexus, being trauma-informed goes beyond a simple policy – it means that every interaction is looked at through a “trauma lens.” This lens helps us see behaviors that are driven by trauma, create a safe space for clients to grow, and gives employees the room to act first with empathy and compassion. Working through the trauma lens shows how past trauma – like experiencing neglect, violence, or going through a family crisis – may be shifting the way a child’s brain processes information, changing the way they respond and react.
For example, a child whose brain is not impacted by trauma, may spill a cup of milk, and think nothing of it, clean it up, and pour themselves a new glass. A child who has experienced trauma may spill a cup of milk and go into fight or flight mode. They may leave the milk on the floor, run and hide from the fear of punitive consequences, or they might have an outburst of anger and aggression as they react to the situation.
By understanding that behavior, decision making, and overall functioning may be influenced by a past traumatic event, we are able to tailor treatment to a person’s individual needs.
Our job as a trauma-informed organization is to see and speak to the underlying reasons for these reactions and help the child feel safe, and work with the child and family to “retrain” their thinking and to process information and distressing situations outside or past their “trauma brain.” The goal of trauma-informed care is to help an individual move past their trauma with interventions that work for their brain, allowing for lifelong success managing their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
This blog article was contributed by Elizabeth Williams, MA, LMFT, 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.