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  • Writer's pictureYana Bachynsky

The Important Components of Trauma-Informed Care


Trauma: more common than you think

Trauma seems like such a heavy, scary word. When people hear it, they often think it applies more to fire victims or veterans of combat than to them. But in fact, psychological trauma affects most of us. While surviving a fire or a warzone would certainly give you trauma, it can also have more commonplace sources. Perhaps you grew up in a family affected by mental illness, addiction, or divorce. Or maybe your trauma was the result of being treated differently because you were of a different race or ethnicity from those around you. Or you were bullied in school. Trauma touches almost all of us.

This is why I take a trauma-informed approach when I assess clients seeking my counseling services. What follow are some of the components that have to be in place for the healing process to be effective.


Safety

A key component when working through trauma is feeling safe. It is therefore very important to be supported by people who have been through what you have been through and understand you. It starts with the people closest to you, such as family and friends. Additionally, joining a group that works with particular kinds of trauma can help you process your experience. An example of such a group is “Al Anon” for relatives and significant others of those who struggle with alcohol dependence.

Another specialized avenue would be individual therapy. It is vital to have a therapist who makes you feel emotionally and physically safe during your sessions. Ask yourself: does my therapist make me feel safe to share? Does he or she really “get” me?

Trust

Do you have clear boundaries concerning whom you trust when sharing your trauma? Sometimes people open up too quickly but end up getting hurt because the person listening is not validating their experience. It is easier to trust someone who is interested in hearing about your trauma, asks a lot of open-ended questions, and does not assume that he or she understands everything you went through. Sometimes, however, this is difficult to find even in friends, which is why so many people turn to therapists. Choice

Having healthy boundaries is also very important. Remember that when you share your trauma narrative with others, you always have the choice to accept their feedback if you find it helpful or tell them that you are not needing input at this time if that feels safer for you. Maybe today you don’t want feedback and you just want to be heard. And if their input does not resonate with you, you can choose to tell them that you respect their opinion but that yours differs.

In order to avoid feeling misunderstood, at first it would be advisable to choose only to share with people who went through something similar. For instance, if your trauma is PTSD developed through military service, then seek other members of the military who have been affected by a similar experience. If you lost a family member to a suicide, there are other survivors with whom you can share your pain. This is why group therapy is so effective: it brings people together who have a trauma shared in common.


Empowerment

As the old saying says: “What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.” This includes trauma. In dealing with it, believe in yourself and your strength. See your trauma as a source of your resilience which in itself will help you heal from it.

Then your experience can help make the world around you better by helping others in similar situations. Many find it helpful and healing to write about their trauma or by becoming leaders in a support group, such as the ones mentioned above. (Some become therapists, such as myself!)

Collaboration

If you choose to work with a therapist, understand that the therapeutic process is collaborative: the client and the therapist work together towards a treatment plan that meets the client's needs. Therefore, when picking a therapist, make sure it’s a good fit, that you feel comfortable, and your needs are being heard. For example, let them know whether you prefer to vent and be listened to in your session or whether you prefer having the therapist to lead you.

You are the active voice of your story and of your treatment. If therapeutic goals are not making sense to you, let your therapist know: speak up, ask questions and modify your treatment plan. Possibly, that might involve choosing another therapist.


Language

Don’t be afraid to inform people when they use language that is insensitive to your trauma. Let others know if their words are hurtful or inappropriate. For example, let’s say you are sharing the trauma from your miscarriage, and someone says “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll have another one,” or “at least you managed to get pregnant.” If this is hurtful and not helpful, tell them. Such language is not trauma-informed.

If you have experienced trauma and would like to process it with an experienced therapist who is trauma-informed, contact me. Let’s collaborate on a treatment plan to put you on the path toward recovery.
















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