On Being Trauma-Informed Part II: What Trauma-Informed Practice Is Not

coach mental health trauma trauma coach Aug 10, 2022

On Being Trauma-Informed Part II: What Trauma-Informed Practice Is Not

Part One of this series addressed some of the fundamentals behind trauma-informed practice and what it looks like. Of equal importance is what it doesn’t look like.

I have noticed an increase in the use of the phrase “trauma-informed” in ways that can miss the spirit behind the movement.

I thought I might try to clear some of this up.

First a story.

When I had just started out in private practice as a trauma specialist, I noticed there were systemic barriers and a lack of awareness that prevented clients from taking care of their bodies. For a lot of folx, it was scary to ask for help.

The very thought of going to the dentist or getting an annual exam for anything female-body related was often out of the question.

Most clients did not pursue care due to interactions that may have activated past trauma or generated new trauma.

Having had a complicated and nearly fatal pregnancy myself, I could certainly relate to fear and frustration with health care.

Trauma-informed efforts on the part of health care providers, businesses, coaches, or anyone in the industry of care has been tremendously helpful in increasing emotionally safe utilization of health care.

Also, by approaching the world through a trauma-informed lens, we are just treating everyone better. It’s a win-win.

However, sometimes the use of the phrase is used improperly and dare I say, even weaponized on occasion.

You might recall from Part I that assuming positive intention is a trauma-informed practice.

Starting any conversation with that assumption changes everything that follows.

So start there.

Now, let’s dive in to some ways the phrase is sometimes used improperly.

Some examples of how “being trauma-informed” can be misused or weaponized is by:

  • Using the phrase as an attempt to get a need met by a source that is unable to meet it
  • A way to get what is believed to be reasonable or fair treatment from a person/organization that either cannot or will not accommodate what is believed to be reasonable or fair.
  • Using the phrase to avoid doing something someone doesn’t don’t want to do.
  • Using the phrase to get what someone wants.

Concrete examples of the misuse of the phrase might include:

  • Demanding more frequent visits with a doctor, coach or therapist than what the provider can offer. 
  • Practitioners or clients not wanting to complete documentation requirements (paperwork is despised by providers and clients alike!).
  • Objecting to any given organization’s or person’s policies and procedures for conducting business or relationships.

A lot of frustration exists around accessing and working within the health care system. Basically, it can feel pretty insensitive and the bureaucracy of it can be impersonal.

It definitely does not always feel trauma-informed. And yes, sometimes it truly isn’t.

A key point…

Healthcare (including mental health care) is a highly regulated industry. If you want your providers to bill your health insurance, there are A LOT of rules they have to follow to be able to do that. Those rules are completely separate from and are in addition to the licensing boards that regulate providers. 

Those rules might include paperwork requirements (type + timeliness of documentation, for example).

The larger the organization or business, the more rules they have to follow.

There’s certainly a lot more to say here. And this has been a long post. I thought I would leave you with a cliff hanger – stay tuned!

Part III on this series will follow along with examples of what trauma-informed practice isn’t. See you soon!

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