Is your service trauma-aware, trauma-responsive, or trauma-informed?

Borrowing from ideas underpinning culturally safety in service provision, where a distinction exists between being culturally aware, culturally responsive, and culturally safe, there is worth in distinguishing what is trauma-informed practice, as opposed to trauma aware and responsive.

Culturally safe practice involves being culturally aware and culturally responsive, But it is more than this. Being culturally safe includes being sensitive to, and reflective upon, the experience of a cultural group, and developing relationships with that group and individuals within it that acknowledge their experience. It also involves taking action that responds to the experience of the group and individuals within it. Culturally safe practice is distinguished by the emphasis on relationship and acting in consideration of the experience of cultural groups.

Safe practice is relational.

It is worth noting that it is possible to be culturally aware and/or culturally responsive, but not be culturally safe.

Similarly, when working in the area of trauma, it is possible to be trauma aware (this is what you know about trauma), trauma responsive (this is, what you do based on what you know about trauma), and/or trauma-informed. Trauma-informed practice might be thought of as intentional practice where we draw on what we know about trauma and practices that help, but use that to meaningfully connect with the individual or group with whom we are delivering a service and to respond to their experience.

Fundamentally, trauma-informed practice is relational.

As with working with cultural groups, it is possible to be trauma aware and trauma responsive, without being trauma-informed. The necessary additional ingredients are relationships and relational responsiveness.

This represents the cornerstone of success in trauma work; providing a safe and containing relationship for therapeutic work to occur in.

In the absence of relationship, a service cannot rightly refer to itself as trauma-informed.

I have been considering these ideas for a little while and am happy to receive and consider your thoughts. Best wishes. Colby

About colbypearce

I am a practising Clinical Psychologist with twenty-seven years’ experience working with children and young people recovering from abuse and neglect. I am also an author and educator in trauma-informed, therapeutic caregiving. My programs are implemented in Australia and Ireland, and I am well-known for my practical and accessible guidance for caregivers and professionals alike.
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