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

coach mental health trauma trauma coach Aug 13, 2022

So, in continuation from the second part of this series, let’s finish this up with a wrap up on what trauma-informed practice is not. Many of the grey areas surround time, communication practices, and money, all of which are interpersonal in nature and can have significant implications in any relationship.

For example, Orenda is working hard to be clear about our process by having a process page as can be seen here: https://theorendaproject.org/our-process/.

It was also important to outline what each offering includes so students know what to expect, as can be seen here: https://theorendaproject.mykajabi.com/education

I certainly recognize there is a need to finesse our pages and to continue to clarify things even further! However even though Orenda does not provide direct care or support to survivors of trauma, it remains important to be clear about what to expect. I’m working on it :).

Now, back to managing time and communication as a trauma coach, therapist or any other professional.

The real difference between a trauma-informed person/practice/organization and one who isn’t is clarity and transparency around how time and communication are handled.

Clarity upfront around these issues empowers the individual to make choices about who is the best fit for them based on their needs.

Different professions have different norms and different providers within each profession often have their own unique standards.

Being clear, consistent and fair about availability and what to expect in any kind of relationship is a trauma-informed practice. Answering the following questions before they are even asked can lay the foundation for any relationship:

  • Do you read or respond to emails after hours?
  • Do you charge a fee for electronic communication? If so, what is your fee?
  • Do you offer additional meeting times if someone is in crisis? If yes, is there a fee for crisis meetings?
  • Do you offer free consultations?

It is okay to not be available after hours, to bill for additional time, and to be unavailable for crisis calls. It is important to have safety plans in place and resources readily available if you are a mental health provider of some kind and are not in a position to provide support after hours. You just need to be clear & consistent about your policies.

Remember, bending the rules for some people and not others, or not clearly conveying how you operate as a person or a business is not a trauma-informed practice.

Alright, now for the big one. Money.

Asserting that because any given person, trauma coach, therapist, doctor, massage therapist etc. who is “too expensive” is not trauma-informed because of their fee is another common misapplication of the phrase.

The rule around money is the same as the rule around time and communication.

Someone who is clear, consistent and fair about how their practice relates to money is trauma-informed, even if they are expensive.

Someone who subjectively bends their own rules or is unclear about what their rules are about money is not approaching this through a trauma-informed lens.

Above are a few examples of misperceptions of what is and isn’t trauma-informed.

Essentially, when a person is shouting “that’s not trauma-informed” because they are not getting what they want or expect, this in and of itself is not trauma-informed. 

Remember. Assume positive intent. Have a conversation. Find the right fit. If a person or organization does not meet your needs, keep looking. A good fit makes everything easier. 

Below is a checklist intended to help clients, friends, family, employees, organizations or whomever navigate being trauma-informed while living in a world of systems:

  •  Inform whomever you are supporting of your process, policies, and procedures. Apply these guidelines equally and fairly.
  •  Share the reasoning behind your processes should the person be interested or have questions.
  •  Empathize with your client’s/patient’s/friend’s/partner’s frustration. Usually it whatever is upsetting them is frustrating.
  •  Come up with a plan to manage challenging situations to the extent that it is possible. Subjectively bending rules should typically not be part of this plan. 
  •  Have a conversation based in mutual respect and the assumption of positive intention.
  •  Have awareness of trauma triggers. This doesn’t mean the trigger will no longer exist or that you can get rid of it, but it does empower survivors to plan for managing their triggers and prevents unwelcome surprises.

So, when the phrase “That’s not trauma-informed!” is boldly asserted, shouted, or otherwise, responding with a conversation and empathy continue to be an appropriate response. A compassionate and thoughtful reply that remains within the overall structure of how any given entity operates is clear, consistent & kind is trauma-informed.

Remember, clear, consistent & kind are never part of a traumatic context. Predictability + safety are intertwined. Trauma-informed interactions counter the past and place the present on solid footing that is grounded in healthy boundaries.

In case you’re interested, here are some additional resources on Trauma-informed practices:





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