Resource Alert: New Trauma Tool Helps Narrow The Gap Between Research and Practice

cancerTrauma is pervasive. We know that anyone can experience trauma, regardless of age, race, gender or socio-economic status. Over the past two to three decades we have learned a lot about trauma – its immediate and long-term impact but also what treatments and organizational practices are effective for helping individuals heal and build resilience.

In a widespread effort to become more trauma-informed, all of us need to take advantage of existing research, knowledge, practices, and approaches that have already shown to be effective in addressing trauma. To support this effort, JBS International and Georgetown University National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health created a free web-based tool entitled “Trauma Informed Care: Perspectives and Resources” that provides insights and resources for anyone wanting to be more trauma-informed. The tool consists of video interviews with lessons learned from individuals and organizations as well as educational documents and comprehensive resources that are updated regularly.

Trauma refers to an event that threatens the life or integrity of an individual or loved one. It can include a range of events such as physical abuse, witnessing domestic violence, a natural disaster, community violence, and medical issues, including cancer, making trauma one of the most common and widespread public health issues. We know that it is not the event itself but the individual’s experience of the event that is traumatizing. Everyone reacts to stressful events differently and is born with different characteristics that impact their ability to cope. Stable and supportive environments and relationships can help individuals build psychological resources and resilience, helping them overcome adverse events. However, without protective factors, these experiences can have toxic effects on an individual. When trauma is experienced early in life, it can lead to actual changes in an individual’s immune and stress response system, leaving them vulnerable to a variety of infections and chronic health problems, and impacting their ability to regulate their emotions and behavior and learn.
One of the largest and most influential public health studies, the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study, showed for the first time how detrimental the impact of trauma is on long-term outcomes. This longitudinal study assessed the number of ACEs 17,000 individuals had experienced before age 18 and then tracked their health outcomes over time. The findings revealed that ACEs are common and that many individuals experience two or more ACEs. Most important, the study showed that individuals who have multiple exposures to abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction are at higher risk of disease, disability, and social problems, and they tend to die earlier than individuals who have experienced one adverse experience or none. Trauma can alter an individual’s worldview, impacting how they relate to others and react to their environment. In addition, those working with traumatized individuals may experience secondary trauma, leading to them developing trauma symptoms themselves.
Given the long-term impact of trauma on individuals, communities and society as a whole, we need to take a multidisciplinary public health approach for helping individuals heal from trauma and preventing trauma from occurring. Services need to be sensitive and responsive to what has happened to individuals and how it has impacted their behavior and health. It’s important that organizations providing services look at all practices through a trauma lens, constantly keeping in mind how traumatic experiences, such as the experience of a medical illness, can affect the patient and family.
A trauma-informed approach consists of practices and policies that are infused through all levels of an organization. Specific steps organizations can take to become trauma-informed include creating a safe, supportive, welcoming, and respectful environment and educating and training all staff including administrators, direct care staff, case managers, and support staff about the impact of trauma. There are also a range of evidence-based treatments available that have been designed specifically to address trauma. Providers need to train clinicians in these trauma-specific treatments and make the treatments available to their clients as the response to screening clients for potential trauma histories and assessing the impact of the trauma on that client.
The impact of trauma can be devastating. However, we have made great progress in understanding the impact of trauma and what we can do to address it. As we approach trauma as a public health issue it is essential that we take what we have learned and translate it into action. Trauma-Informed Care: Perspectives and Resources aims to help you do just that.
By Eileen Elias, M. Ed and Sherry Peters, MSW, ACSW
Eileen Elias, M.Ed., is an international and national public health expert and consultant on disability-based behavioral and chronic health and public and private long term care policy, management, and service delivery addressing children and adults.
Sherry Peters, MSW, ACSW, is an assistant professor at Georgetown University providing assistance to states in developing effective services and supports for youth with complex mental health challenges and their families.
Photo source “Hello, my trauma” by JiHoon Kim:

Resource Alert: New Trauma Tool Helps Narrow The Gap Between Research and Practice was originally published @ Cancer inCYTES Blog and has been syndicated with permission.

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