April 29, 2019

Trauma Informed Care

Carol Moser

Imagine walking into your dentist office for your root canal. You’re already anxious because of previous bad experiences at the dentist, but this time the office staff greet you with a welcoming smile, there is minimal paperwork to do, and you are ushered into your dental chair where the hygienist offers you a blanket, pillow, headphones, sunglasses, and a little laughing gas to help you relax. You think to yourself, “The staff really care about me, and must know how traumatized I get at the dentist’s office!” Your anxiety is lessened a few notches. This is a trauma informed office!

According to Ken Kraybill, MSW, Director of Training for t3 (think. teach. transform.), trauma informed care is a bunch of little things that we can do to better serve our clients: active listening, saying “I’m sorry,” “thank you for sharing,” (don’t ask for more details), normalizing and say, “sadly, that happens to a lot of people.” Avoid taking over the other person’s conversation and telling your own story. Create a safe environment. Be accepting, empathetic. Trauma informed listening is non-judgmental, compassionate, and forgiving. Becoming trauma informed involves using knowledge of trauma and recovery to design and deliver effective services.

Peter Levin, PhD and trauma therapist says “trauma is the most avoided, ignored, denied, misunderstood, and untreated cause of human suffering.” It is especially important to incorporate trauma informed approaches into the healthcare delivery system because traumatic experiences have a direct impact on patients’ health and on how they engage in health care. Patients that have experienced trauma can be re-traumatized through medical care such as invasive procedures, removal of clothing, physical touch, and personal questions. Past traumatic experiences can manifest themselves in repeatedly missed or cancelled appointments, avoiding preventive care, poor adherence to treatment recommendations, anxiety about certain medical procedures.

Becoming trauma informed is essential to better patient care, but the good news is that it benefits both patient and provider; clients become more engaged in their own care, and providers learn new skills to heal.