Three Steps That Will Make You More Trustworthy

I talk a lot about trauma-informed care, support or resources. Trauma-informed means understanding, recognizing and responding to the effects of trauma to avoid further harm. It means accepting that everyone is a trauma survivor. It means those of us who work with the general public need to respond better to the signs we are given (because survivors do give signs if we're paying attention) and consciously avoid re-traumatizing people. Put more simply, it means making your service, system or approach sensitive and inclusive to the needs of sexual abuse survivors. Here are three simple steps to do this:

  1. Ask only what you need to know. Endless paperwork is overwhelming...for everyone! While "all the facts" can be helpful to you for your reporting requirements for grants or other funding, it's emotionally exhausting for clients who are already traumatized, scared, tired, stressed and may be dealing with a mental health issue that impedes their ability to concentrate and think clearly.
  2. Offer choice. Here are two ways to do this: A. If clients must do intake paperwork, provide all of it as downloadable forms on your website. This gives folks the chance to read it in advance so they are emotionally prepared for the question that they will be asked. Which is helpful even if they cannot print the documents at home. At least they know what's in store for them. B. Let clients know that they don't have to respond to every question. State that clearly at the top of each form ("if you are uncomfortable answering any of the following questions for any reason, you can skip them"). Giving people the power to make choices that feel good or safe to them helps them trust you.

3. Staff must look like your clients/patients. Therapists, social workers, doctors, nurses of color are not automatically better able to serve clients of color but they are more likely to be able to identify with the reality of living as a person of color and all of the challenges that go along with that. More on that idea and how some white therapists unintentionally re-traumatize their clients of color is here.

What would you add to this list? What's missing? Leave a comment below.