Katena Cain, PhD.
Nonprofit Management Consultant
Even when organizations don’t directly engage with trauma, they are touched by it. The effects of trauma are present when employee habits change, and they are absent. They are present when tensions build between staff and clients, and they are present when high turnover occurs and stretches budgets.
A trauma-informed organization is one in which all components of the system have been reconsidered and evaluated in the light of a basic understanding of the role that violence and trauma play in the lives of people seeking services from an organization and who may also be employed by that same organization.
Trauma-informed organizations change these painful patterns by acknowledging both the far-reaching effects of trauma and the many paths to heal it, becoming more effective in the process. Additionally, an organizational environment that is trauma-informed can support and sustain ‘trauma-specific’ services as they develop.
A trauma-informed system recognizes that trauma results in multiple vulnerabilities and affects many aspects of a survivor’s life over the lifespan. Therefore, a trauma-informed organization coordinates and integrates trauma-related activities and training with other systems of care to serve trauma survivors. A basic understanding of trauma and that dynamic should be held by all staff and should be used to design systems of services in a manner that accommodates the vulnerabilities of trauma survivors and allows services to be delivered in a way that will avoid re-traumatization.
A trauma-informed service system is knowledgeable and competent to recognize and respond effectively to adults and children traumatically impacted by a range of overwhelming adverse experiences, both interpersonal in nature and caused by natural events and disasters. There should be written plans and procedures to develop a trauma-informed service system and/or trauma-informed organizations and facilities with methods to identify and monitor progress.
It is imperative for an organization to have a full understanding of what trauma is. An organization that is trauma-informed will have the ability to be aware, recognize, and plan for situations that may create trauma and use best practice to reduce trauma among the communities, clients, patients, families, volunteers, and employees served.
If you'd like to learn more about defining and recognizing trauma and how it shows up in our work, please join us on April 5th at 9:30 AM as we expand this conversation at our workshop, Being and Becoming a Trauma Informed Nonprofit Organization.
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