Yesterday I had the good pleasure of sitting with key leaders of organizations involved in trauma healing around the world. Much of our focus was on what these organizations were doing around the world (successes and challenges) and how would we function together in an alliance. You might expect we spent most of our time talking about projects and activities. You would be right.
However, I was given a few minutes in the afternoon to open up a dialogue about how we ensure that our organizations are adequately trauma-informed, for the sake of both our target populations as well as our own staff members.
What is trauma-informed care?
Last year I did this podcast for The Samaritan Women to introduce the topic of TIC. The idea, in short is that organizations serving traumatized individuals and communities would have a base understanding of trauma (what it is, how it impacts bodies, behaviors, spirits, relationships, etc.) and how to provide quality care that does not re-traumatize or hinder recovery. Of course, all human service and ministry agencies want to help. But, we know that not all that we do, even when well-intended, is helpful. Thus, there is a need to review policies and procedures to see how well we are serving others. If trauma victims tend to lose voice (power), relationships, and meaning, then do our organizational activities support the reversal of these losses?
For agencies seeking to self-evaluate around TIC categories (safety, trustworthy and transparent, peer-support, mutuality, empowerment/choice, and considering culture) start with assessment tools found at samhsa.gov or other TIC websites. The tools can help you consider gaps in training, policies, and interventions.
But don’t forget…
No organization will be adequately trauma-informed without caring also for staff members. It is tempting to put all the focus on how we care for our target population and completely forget about the staff who are doing the work of trauma-recovery. We can neglect their self-care, neglect the reality of secondary trauma. Most who are attracted to trauma healing (or as we said yesterday, those who get bit by the bug) are likely to neglect their own emotional and physical health for the sake of helping others.
So, ask a few questions:
- Are your trauma healing specialists given voice for how to serve others, in building strategic plans?
- Are their ample opportunity for staff to voice concerns and complaints from staff policies to implementation? Can they evaluate their superiors in appropriate ways?
- What organic self-care opportunities are built into the organization?
- If a staff member begins to show signs of their own trauma, will they be cared for or will they be seen as weak and suspect? Is help only provided after the fact or as a prevention strategy?
- What opportunities for continuing education and mentoring exist?
- When was the last time you surveyed emotional, relational, spiritual safety within your organization?