What is Trauma Informed Care (TIC)
Trauma informed care is about realizing the prevalence of trauma in the lives of everyone we serve (and everyone in general). The fact is that almost everyone has dealt with loss or a traumatic event(s) in their life, and each of us has a different set of resources that help us cope: things like family, education, or access to goods and services. From understanding both this prevalence of trauma and its link to resources necessary for coping, we can recognize that certain behaviors arise as coping strategies when there is a lack of other resources — especially crucial resources like money, food, or shelter. TIC teaches us to respond with compassion and care when we see those coping strategies, and to avoid triggers that may re-traumatize those around us. In short, TIC is a lens of empathy through which we can foster our compassion.
How does it relate to your grant for Holocaust survivors?
Of course, survivors of the Holocaust are victims of some specific and identifiable trauma. Most of the survivors alive now endured this trauma from a very young and formative age. It has affected their long-term health, identity, and outlook. The grant supported initial training workshops for all JFS staff and for community partners in the basics of TIC for survivors. Understanding the atrocities of the Holocaust can help to avoid certain triggers that may bring some of those emotions to the surface.
How have we adopted TIC practices within our organization?
There are many TIC practices that we were already utilising: like our Food Pantry providing clients the autonomy to “shop” and choose their own groceries, Care Managers empowering clients to live the lifestyle most meaningful to them as they age, and providing confidential care for those of different cultures, faiths, and backgrounds. Yet, becoming Trauma Informed is a journey, not a destination. We found ways to reduce the paperwork for our intake processes, because completing paperwork can be stressful and triggering. We also encourage and share self-care tactics, identifying ways we can proactively address burnout or “compassion fatigue” for staff.
How does TIC benefit care-giving professionals?
The benefit is twofold: First, it provides a framework for providing compassionate care while avoiding triggers and re-traumatization. It also educates us all to practice self-care tactics that can prevent compassion fatigue and burnout, helping improve their own resilience against secondary trauma.
What feedback have you received?
Feedback has been crucial to this process: We ask all training participants to complete a satisfaction survey with their comments on what they learned, and what was helpful. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. The training has also inspired great ideas from our staff, like converting spare phone rooms into multi-purpose wellness rooms, and reconfiguring some of our intake processes to reduce the stress of paperwork for clients. It is rewarding to hear that the TIC paradigm has been useful and inspirational for colleagues.
How do we incorporate Self Care into TIC?
Self-care is a huge component, especially for staff who work directly with clients in need. We experience a great deal of secondary trauma as we empathize with clients’ stories, which can lead to compassion fatigue. By taking care of ourselves, we foster resiliency and regain energy to better provide for our clients’ needs. At the same time, practicing good self-care gives us tools we can pass on to our clients who are looking for creative ways of coping with stress and trauma. We can model breathing or grounding exercises, help brainstorm self-care practices that work for them, and search for outlets that can provide more support. We recently hosted a self-care workshop for clients of our food pantry, and plan to offer similar events moving forward.
What are future ideas to incorporate into TIC?
Education, discussion, and practice! We plan to provide refresher trainings, foster forums of discussion, continue staffing difficult cases, and encouraging feedback. I am working closely with JFS administrators and program directors to help facilitate more discussion and experimentation. We come up with an idea, implement it, see how it works, and reevaluate. Right now, we are focusing on some basic principles like transparency, safety, trustworthiness, and cultural competency. Moving forward, we can start to integrate those more with both our day-to-day operations and long-term goals to improve on what we are already doing well.