Traumatic events trigger biological changes in the human brain that can impact brain development, especially in children. For individuals who experience trauma on a regular basis, these changes can result in physical and mental health problems. Research has shown the more traumatic experiences a person has in their lifetime, the higher the risk of health issues later in life. The team at Laurel Life uses a trauma-informed approach to providing mental health services, focusing on teaching those who have experienced trauma effective techniques to cope.
What is a traumatic event?
We often think of trauma in a physical sense, but highly stressful events can also cause emotional trauma. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “When the event, or series of events, causes a lot of stress, it is called a traumatic event. Traumatic events are marked by a sense of horror, helplessness, serious injury, or the threat of serious injury or death. Traumatic events affect survivors, rescue workers, and the friends and relatives of victims who have been involved. They may also have an impact on people who have seen the event either firsthand or on television.” Some examples of traumatic events include the death of a loved one, direct or witnessed physical or emotional abuse, neglect, homelessness, alcohol or drug misuse, depression, loss of a job, or a financial crisis. These are just a few examples of events that may be considered traumatic.
Trauma and children
Trauma is a public health issue that can impact anyone. Children are often at higher risk of adverse consequences since they may not understand why a traumatic event occurred or how to deal with it. As a result, children may do poorly in school, be unable to focus or concentrate in class, exhibit impulsive behavior, act out or become violent, or withdraw from friends and activities they have enjoyed in the past. Trauma is cumulative. This means behavioral changes may not occur immediately after a traumatic event, so it can be harder to pinpoint what has triggered the change in behavior and address it.
There is an increasing awareness within the community of mental health professionals about the long-term impact of trauma. This awareness allows providers to help identify those impacted by trauma and guide them in addressing their response to it.
There are five guiding principles of trauma-informed care:
Safety: Individuals should feel physically and emotionally safe in the meeting environment and with the counselor. In an office environment, the space should be welcoming and private, and engagement should be respectful. This may mean that sessions take place in the home or even at an outside location.
Choice: Expectations and guidelines should be clearly communicated. The individual should understand treatment is their choice.
Collaboration: The counselor should work with the individual on a treatment plan. Setting up a routine can be important to those experiencing trauma. Feeling they are part of the solution will help individuals understand they have control.
Trustworthiness: The individual must feel their counselor can be trusted. Building a solid relationship may take some time but is ultimately worth it.
Empowerment: Learning to cope with past traumatic experiences requires the individual to learn tools that will help them move forward on their own. Understanding their strengths and capabilities will help them grow and cope outside of a professional environment or after treatment has ended.
Laurel Life offers professional development seminars to teach the foundations of trauma-informed care, the correlation between symptoms and behaviors, and evidence-based engagement and teaching strategies that create a safe learning environment. Please reach out to learn more at firstname.lastname@example.org.