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Trauma Informed Care is More Than Trauma Focused Treatment

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Trauma Informed Care. It’s everywhere. It’s a webinar invite in your inbox. It’s a session track at NATCON. It’s the headline of your industry magazine. But what it is really? It’s more than just practicing a single trauma focused treatment model.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) an agency that operates in a trauma-informed system encompasses 4 characteristics;

1. Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands the potential paths for recovery, 2. Recognizes signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system, 3. Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, and 4. Seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.”

SAMSHA continues on to recognize that “a trauma-informed approach can be implemented in any type of service setting or organization and is distinct from trauma-specific interventions or treatments that are designed specifically to address the consequences of trauma and to facilitate healing.”

All of that sounds like a wonderful foundation to build an agency around, yet everywhere you look there are private consultants, university institutes, and countless conference sessions dedicated to implementing this concept. Does actually implementing Trauma Informed Care make you feel like Sisyphus pushing a rock up the hill?

There are a few reasons that often stand between management’s decision to implement a trauma-informed system, and the actual realization of a fluid system where each clinician is aware of a client’s true traumatic history when delivering services.

  1. The inability of large agencies to standardize comprehensive assessments in a planful way and ensure clinicians are consistently using them.
  2. The cumbersome task of training existing and new staff.
  3. Resistance from clinicians to embrace the concept.

Well, if you believe that anything easy isn’t worth doing, then you should tackle these obstacles, not run from them.

#1 – Getting Consistency at a Large Agency

They key to beating this lies in your technology solution. You need a uniform trauma assessment process presented to the clinician in a guided way for all clients that exists irrespective of program, location, or service delivery type. As an example, a client presenting with substance abuse should be referred for another service delivery if the trauma assessments shows there are root cause issues to address.

The right technology solution should provide an assessment process that will guide every clinician down the same question path. This ensures that every clinician in your agency will create the same trauma profile of clients, this standard of assessment creates a standard of understanding amongs your clinicians which ensures fidelity of data captured for consistent, accurate reporting later.

#2. Cumbersome task of training

There is a point where there is no way around this. You need to communicate with everyone in the agency the direction you are headed in. Often this includes gathering staff together, which can be logistically difficult and disruptive to your business process. The question to ask here, is when we facilitate training about trauma-informed care as a concept, are we providing actionable takeaways for them to execute on after the training?

Don’t leave your audience walking away saying now what? Let them walk away saying okay, once I learn to do these assessments and access the clients trauma history I will be equipped to succeed in this model.

#3. Resistance from clinicians

Like any organization undergoing an enterprise-wide change of approach, you have to have buy in from the top. Your executives must believe in this, and work it through the organization so there is reinforcement from all levels of your agency. That includes providing the appropriate tools to facilitate success and demonstration of how outcomes can be improved using this approach.

Show your staff that your movement toward trauma-informed care is more than just an idea. They will see when your agency invests in technology and training to make trauma-informed-care more than just a good idea. 

See how Bridging Access to Care Implemented a Trauma Informed EHR.

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