Defining Trauma & Trauma Informed Care: How TSSNT is Paving the Way
The word “trauma” stems from the Greek definition of “wound”, or “hurt”. This is especially relevant in how we understand, and therefore incorporate understanding of, trauma today. Trauma used to be viewed as an abnormal, or unusual, response. More recently, trauma has been redefined as a “response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel the full range of emotions and experiences.” (https://integratedlistening.com/what-is-trauma/).
Therefore, ANY ONE OF US could experience trauma AT ANY TIME. Trauma does not discriminate and is pervasive throughout the world. Meaning: (1) “Trauma can affect people of every race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender, psychosocial background, and geographic region;” and (2) “Traumas can affect individuals, families, groups, communities, specific cultures, and generations.” (https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/SAMSA_TIP_Trauma.pdf). According to data from SAMHSA, 61 percent of men and 51 percent of women in the U.S. report exposure to at least one lifetime traumatic event; and 90 percent of clients in public behavioral health care settings have experienced trauma. That means, according to this data, the majority of people in the U.S. will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.
Furthermore, it is now understood that trauma is defined by the experience of the survivor. This explains how two (or more) people can experience the same event – or series of events – but experience (and interpret) them in different ways. Biopsychosocial and cultural factors also influence one’s response to a traumatic event – or events.
It is now known that trauma changes our brain – literally. Brain areas implicated in the stress response include the amygdala (key role in processing emotions), hippocampus (formation of new memories, learning, and emotions), and prefrontal cortex (cognitive behaviors, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behavior). Traumatic stress can be associated with lasting changes in these brain areas. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181836/).
Let me recap: trauma impacts (1) our ability to process emotions, (2) memory, (3) learning ability, (4) cognitive behaviors (thoughts), (5) personality expression, (6) decision making abilities, & (7) social behavior. It affects the extent that we can or cannot think clearly.
Trauma can be intergenerational or historical; meaning multiple generations of peoples can transmit the effects of trauma through the years, thus affecting family systems and communities.
It is now recognized that “It is vital for all leadership and staff of health, behavioral health, and integrated care organizations to understand the nature and impact of trauma and how to use principles and practices that promote recovery and healing: Trauma Informed Approaches.” (https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/trauma-informed).
Where TSSNT Comes In:
Trauma Support Services of North Texas (TSSNT) began in 2007 with the realization that trauma victims were being under-served.
While some short-term crisis and response programs existed for crime victims throughout the DFW Metroplex, it was difficult to locate therapists who might treat more complex, long-term therapy, especially if the victim was without insurance or the ability to pay for services.
TSSNT knew we could help!
TSSNT is unique in that we:
· go beyond short-term crisis intervention and referral services (which are more commonly available) to address the longer-term therapeutic needs of adults, children, and families resulting from a traumatic event;
· use only licensed therapists with trauma therapy experience (TSSNT does not use student interns);
· arrange for volunteer therapists to take one client/family at a time on a pro bono basis (which allows TSSNT to keep fees as low as possible or even free);
· maintain client contact for as long as it takes for clients to return to a happier, more productive life;
· accept Crime Victims Compensation for those who qualify
TSSNT staff therapist Judith Stewart states, “What trauma research has done for trauma informed therapist is to provide the integrating of recent advances in brain science, attachment research, and body awareness into treatments that can free traumatized individuals from the impact and manifestations of trauma of the past, and provide them with tools that enable them to find their way back.”
Recently, a former TSSNT client checked-in with their therapist and embodies Judith’s statement above by saying, “I want to say a special thanks to you and the Trauma Center for all of your help. I still have my moments. Thanks to you and the center I have tools to help me deal. You were my therapist that felt and feels like that one good friend.” * Quote is shared with permission.
In addition to providing services to their clients and their families, TSSNT has our own training branch the Trauma Care Institute (TCI). Our TCI offers state-of-the-art monthly trainings for free, requested trainings from the community/schools/organizations (most of them free of charge), and in-depth fee-based trainings pertaining to the understanding and treatment of trauma. TCI Training Director, Caitlyn Worledge, shares her insight on the importance of our TCI, “It is imperative for providers to gain the knowledge and skills needed to promote healing, recovery, and wellness. If we’re not viewing clients (and treatment) through a trauma lens, we might not have a clear picture and understanding of the client. This lack of understanding could potentially lead to improper treatment goals and interventions, or even run the risk of re-traumatizing the client.” The trainings that TCI provides are so important because many mental health professionals do not have extensive training in treating trauma or in offering trauma-informed services. According to SAMHSA, counselors “should have an understanding of how to recognize trauma-related reactions, how to incorporate treatment interventions for trauma related symptoms into treatment plans, how to help clients build a safety net to prevent further trauma, how to conduct psychoeducational interventions, and when to make treatment referrals.” (https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/SAMSA_TIP_Trauma.pdf).
What is Trauma Informed Care?
Trauma informed care seeks to shift the perspective from “what’s wrong with you” to “what happened to you;” and recognizes (and accepts) that symptoms and behaviors are strategies that have been developed to cope with trauma. (https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/trauma-informed).
Trauma informed care and practice:
· Reinforces the importance of acquiring trauma-specific knowledge and skills to meet the needs of clients
· Recognizes that individuals may be affected by trauma regardless of its acknowledgement
· Understands that trauma affects many clients who are seeking behavioral health services (up to 90%)
· Acknowledges that organizations and providers can retraumatize clients through standard or unexamined policies and practices
· Stresses the importance of addressing the client individually rather than applying general treatment approaches.
The 5 Principles of Trauma Informed Care:
Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care (2015)
North Texas Giving Day:
Please consider supporting TSSNT and all the important work that we do on North Texas Giving Day. Scheduled giving is open, and North Texas Giving Day is on 09.19.19. You can donate directly, and/or create a FUNdraising page to share with others to help us raise money.
Create a FUNdraising Page: https://www.northtexasgivingday.org/index.php?action=campaignLogin&fwID=1147&_fwActionVerify=1YCCTXF6RJTRI32OOZIK3GK2CRMV3A&ret=section%3DmyAccount.campaigns%26action%3Dnew%26fwID2%3D1147
Helpful Resources and Articles:
Trauma Support Services of North Texas (TSSNT)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/trauma-informed
SAMHSA TIP 57: Trauma Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services
SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach
NCBI – Traumatic Stress: Effects on the Brain
Encyclopedia of Social Work – Trauma Informed Care
Integrated Listening Systems – What is Trauma?
Psychology Today – Trauma-Informed Care and Why it Matters