Wilma's Social Workshops - Building skills to support families

Piece of the Puzzle

Trauma Informed Practice; A Process, not a quick fix

Trauma Informed Practice (TIP) sounds good, but the underlying principles might be misunderstood in a world where instant gratification, solution focused and outcome based principles are important. Trauma Informed Practice is a relationship based process and like any relationship it requires patience, validation, building trust and willingness to forgive and learn from each other and from mistakes.

If you are a (foster)parent, counsellor, community worker, child protection worker, teacher,early childhood educator etc. you are at risk of losing hope, giving up or feeling unable to apply the principles of Trauma Informed Practice if you, your organisation or 'the system' sets you up with expectations of a quick fix.

There is no quick fix for children, adolescents or adults who experienced trauma. What happens in their brains as a result of neglect, abuse, witnessing domestic violence and other traumatic experiences does not go away by applying a new tool, method or parenting approach for a few days. Our communities and organisations need to create environments, support structures and personal attitudes which are nurturing, inclusive and understanding of what it is like to be operating in survival mode most of your waking, as well as sleeping hours. Just like in any relationship we need to hang in there for the long haul.

What our society needs is a whole of system approach for and with families affected by trauma all across our communities, schools and organisations. From babies to adults, people need places where they can feel welcome, included and accepted for their humanness. They need places where people don't give up on them because it is all too hard. We need schools and communities that believe in the capacity of traumatised children, adolescents and their families to be able to change, learn, grow and contribute. 

A whole of system approach needs to include support for all (foster)parents and professionals working with traumatised people. We need to implement the principles of trauma informed practice in our organisations and schools from upper management through to reception. We need support systems which will back us up in the important work we do. Because we all need to feel that what we do matters and makes a difference. We all need reassurance we are on the right track and support and encouragement, especially when things fall apart. When despite all our training and knowledge and skills the sh** hits the pro-verbal fan.

We need to challenge the expectation that professionals or (foster)parents with training and tools will be able to prevent or manage every strong emotional response or challenging behaviour. If we expect this of ourselves we set ourselves and the vulnerable children or adults we work with up for failure. It might lead us to believe that no matter what we do, healing is impossible, that we are helpless and it is simply too hard. 

Does this mean we should not have high expectations of ourselves, people with traumatic experiences and people who provide professional development? Off course not. Trauma research tells us that a person healing from traumatic experiences needs safe and dependable relationships and many, many repetitive experiences within the context of connections with other human beings to change the neural pathways shaped by traumatic experiences.

This is where training in trauma informed, relationship based, person centred practice comes in. Of course we need knowledge, tools and skills, as well as a framework to work with. These are the what, where, when and how. But in order to achieve real change for the children, adolescents and adults we work with we need to firmly anchor them in the context of trauma informed practice and a true belief in the power of relationships.

We need tools, knowledge and skills and embed those in an environment, that is accepting, inclusive and expecting of ourselves and the people we work or live with to contribute as best as they can. We need to consistently communicate and live the message to children, adolescents and adults they are wanted, liked, included, not judged, believed in, not given up on, appreciated for their efforts, no matter how small. Over time their brains will incorporate these messages and relational experiences, resulting in changes of their relational templates.

Challenging behaviours, emotional meltdowns and crisis' will keep on happening from time to time. We can make a difference by being a safe haven when things fall apart. We can help contain and create a holding space for children, adolescents and adults alike. We can help them process what happened, once things have calmed down in order to create learning experiences within a relational context. We can have clear boundaries and expectations of respectful behaviour by leading by example and having compassion and patience. We can implement  non-punitive, natural consequences, which don't shame and instead create a learning experience and opportunities for restorative justice. And most of all this will create a sense of hope that change, growth and happiness is possible.

For Organisations

Piece of the Puzzle

Trauma Informed Practice; A Process, not a quick fix

Trauma Informed Practice (TIP) sounds good, but the underlying principles might be misunderstood in a world where instant gratification, solution focused and outcome based principles are important  ...click here for more