Day Two | Trauma Informed Practice
The aim of trauma informed practice is to prevent re-traumatisation in clients/service users to support and empower healing.
In order to adapt a trauma informed approach, we must first understand how trauma is defined. One of the accepted definitions of trauma is 'an event, a series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, emotional, or social well-being' (SafeLives, 2018). This is true for individuals who have experienced domestic abuse and it is vital that practitioners recognise the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients. Trauma may present as the individual appearing closed off, untrusting or over sensitive and this can be misinterpreted by professionals as a lack of willingness to engage, they lack insight into domestic abuse, they are defensive and can be seen as being argumentative.
A trauma informed approach is about recognising the impact trauma has on an individual and how this may influence their behaviours and decision making. The approach integrates knowledge of trauma into policies, procedures, and practice to ensure that the way we work with victims and survivors does not cause further harm, that it promotes healing and recovery and acknowledges and supports resilience. There are six key principles to trauma informed practice: empowerment and choice, trustworthiness and transparency, collaboration, safety, peer support and cultural and gender issues.
By putting these principles into practice, the victims/survivors experience of working with professionals is enhanced and engagement is increased. When a trauma informed response is used victims have their experiences normalised, they have a safe space to explore their feelings while being reassured and validated. Professionals should be open and honest, realistic about what they can offer as a service, and have flexibility. Peer support for the victim/survivor can be integral to giving the victim a voice. It is also beneficial for practitioners to be able to access support from their peers, to help prevent vicarious trauma. Collaborative working enables victims/survivors to make informed choices and allows for exploration of feelings and thoughts. Acknowledge factors such as culture and gender, without making assumptions. Use a strength-based approach, recognising the victims/survivors’ protective efforts, especially in instances where there are children involved.
A trauma informed response isn’t limited to victims/survivors and can be used when working with perpetrators. Working in a way that recognises that the perpetrator may have trauma themselves while acknowledging that they are demonstrating patterns of behaviour which are unhealthy and harmful. Professionals must, however, be mindful that the perpetrator may use trauma as part of a pattern of coercive control by using it to deflect or excuse their behaviour.
Any professionals wishing to explore the principle of trauma informed practice in more depth can visit www.safelives.org.uk for more information.
Abbie Harrop-Atkinson, Drive