Trauma and Resilience Informed Tips
Below are some of our favorite reminders about ways to integrate trauma and resilience informed principles into your work and daily interactions.
Trauma Informed Tips
- Create trauma informed environments. For example, let participants know if you will be closing the door or turning off the lights for a presentation. If you can, offer options for how much lighting is on. You never know how these changes in environment might affect someone based on their past experiences.
- Understand that trauma and stress affect everyone differently. Two people may share the same traumatic event but have different experiences and outcomes. Even if the situation does not seem that serious to you, it may be traumatic for someone else.
- Avoid judgments and stereotypes. Recognize that everyone is walking into every situation with their own story and experiences. Consider how these stories and experiences might impact their behaviors.
- Practice using sensitive communication techniques. For example, you can ask trauma sensitive questions when addressing sensitive topics. Instead of asking, “What is wrong with you?” ask, “What have you been through?” You can also make an empathetic statement such as, “I can see that was really challenging for you.” Taking the time to validate others’ experiences and being present in challenging moments can help build trust, which is essential for building, maintaining, and improving relationships.
- Recognize that people communicate on many different levels. A large percentage of communication is non-verbal. Be mindful of your tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions.
- Build healthy relationships and practice trauma informed care by prioritizing honesty and transparency. Answer questions individuals may have in a direct, calm manner.
- Offer options to those you are caring for and allow them to have a voice in decisions that will impact their everyday lives. Giving individuals’ the power to make their own decisions supports resilience. It can be as simple as, “Would you prefer to use a pencil or a pen?”
- Encourage stability and predictability in the daily routine. Having a routine can be helpful in difficult times and can give you a sense of control. It can improve your focus, organization, and productivity while mitigating stress and establishing a sense of safety. Be reliable and keep consistent schedules and rules in order to create a safe, stable environment for providers, consumers, and families. When changes are necessary, offer adequate time for preparation.
- Observe and try to understand others’ feelings. Showing empathy demonstrates you understand and are concerned about the feelings a person may be experiencing. It also promotes pro-social behavior.
- Take care of your emotional health. Your emotions matter too. Recognizing your own cues and identifying your emotions is important when serving others. You can start by checking-in with yourself. Take a moment to pause and practice deep breathing when supporting others emotionally. Use this time to consciously think about what you are feeling and what the other person may be needing. Individuals often take cues from those around them, so centering yourself helps both you and the person you are supporting to stay calm and self-regulated.
- Be an attentive listener. According to research published by the American Psychological Association, people tend to identify others’ emotions more accurately when they listen opposed to solely relying on facial cues. Listening attentively to colleagues, consumers, and family members can help build strong relationships, avoid misunderstandings, and resolve conflicts. Listening also validates the speaker and allows their voice to be heard.
- Be patient. Trauma can have long-term effects on every aspect of a person’s life. The healing process can happen quickly for some and may take a longer time for others. Be supportive and do not rush anyone’s healing process.
- Be aware. As you are interacting with people, we will inevitably encounter individuals who have experienced trauma. You never know who has experienced trauma, so it’s important to keep on your “trauma informed lens” at all times. People who have been traumatized need support and understanding from those around them.
Resilience Informed Tips
- Support individuals in identifying different levels of social support. We know that supportive relationships are essential in building resilience. Help individuals identify/build their network of supportive and nurturing relationships (such as family, friends, community members, therapists, providers, and even pets).
- Collaborate with individuals. When we serve others, we want to work in collaboration with them rather than providing services to them. This starts with honoring everyone’s diverse experiences and perspectives. It also involves a shift in power dynamics when we develop a shared vision and goal.
- Focus on individuals’ strengths. Working collaboratively with colleagues, consumers, and families to identify their inherent strengths and setting strength-based goals helps build resilience. For instance, you can implement strength-based activities such as making a success list. Help individuals recall and make a list of how they successfully handled challenges in the past. Maintain a strength-based perspective by identifying and building off past successes.
- Support the development of coping skills. Coping skills increase resilience because they help people learn how to properly handle uncomfortable emotions and reactions that result from trauma. Coping skills can include things like walking, talking to a friend, taking breaks, smelling a favorite smell, reading a book, texting a positive message to a loved one, and much more.
- Help maintain hope. The effects of stress can be devastating, but it’s really important to remember that there is always hope. Research shows that hope helps people cope with and recover from illness/adversity.
- Connect individuals with appropriate community resources. There are organizations, support groups, and other resources that provide emotional support and assistance to individuals experiencing the effects of stress. Accessing these community resources can support individuals on their journey to healing.
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