CHERYL STEP, CREATING RESILIENCE
“Trauma always happens within a context, and so does healing. To understand the impact of trauma means being acutely sensitive to the environment—to the conditions under which people grew up, to how they live today, and to the journeys they have taken along the way.” (Andrea Blanch, Beth Filson, and Darby Penney National Center for Trauma Informed Care guidebook)
Creating an environment that exudes calm, safety, and compassion is a goal of trauma-informed systems. It is a profound paradigm shift in knowledge, perspective, attitudes and skills that continues to deepen and unfold over time. I often explain to agencies and communities that to be trauma informed means not only adjusting programming for an individual or family, but to also transform the environment in which the program occurs and the environment in which the individual or family lives. I recently heard an analogy that simplifies this concept brilliantly.
I was listening to Don Coyhis of White Bison, Inc. He was speaking about healing intergenerational trauma with Native American tribes. He explained how important it is to work with the community not simply with individuals. He used this illustration:
If you have a forest of trees and they are sick, you can remove one tree, give it what it needs- the attention, care, medicine, nutrients- to heal, and it will become healthy. But, if you take that healthy tree and put it back into the forest of sick trees, what will happen? Most likely it will become sick again. So, if you truly want to heal the tree, you must also heal the forest in which it resides.
According to SAMHSA, to create a trauma informed approach we need to incorporate the 4 R’s: Realization about trauma and how it can affect people and groups; Recognizing the signs of trauma; having a system which can Respond to trauma; and Resisting re-traumatization. Many agencies and communities utilize the trauma informed approach principles to scrutinize and strengthen their interventions, treatments and programs. But it cannot stop there.
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