One Way to Use Your Power To Offer Better Choices

It's daunting to know where to start when we imagine making our practice or client approach more "trauma-informed" or "trauma sensitive".

  • What language should be altered?

  • Where can I start?

  • Who leads the change?

  • How can the changes be measured?

  • When is the best time to make big changes?

So today let's tackle one of those questions: "where can I start?".

When making any changes to your routine or even work environment, start first with low-hanging fruit. Low-hanging fruit are changes that are usually obvious and easy to understand. These are the kind of changes you don't need a special consultant to notice or recommend. They are often changes that someone has thought of or imagined as a way to improve processes.

One such low-hanging fruit is paperwork processes.

Most of you have some sort of paperwork system that clients or patients need to complete before they can get services from you. This makes practical sense. And yet, it can be exhausting and even intimidating to be handed a sheaf of pages attached to a clipboard, before you even see a provider.

You can get around this roadblock in a trauma-sensitive way AND still get the information you need. Here's how:

1) Upload all intake paperwork on your website. This not only gives clients a way to see what they will be asked in advance but it also gives them control over where & how they do the intake. Some people need more time. Some people are more reflective in their home, as opposed to a clinician's office. Everyone appreciates a choice instead of a directive.

2) As soon as the appointment is booked clients are told that they will need to do an intake form. They have 3 choices: they can access the forms on the website, print and bring with them.


they can do the forms in the office when they arrive


OR they can complete the forms with their provider at their appointment.

People need to be given choices about how they disclose information about themselves, even if it's "just" their health history. Having three options to complete intake forms gives them that power and control. Offering choice to patients related to how they share information about themselves is a simple way to trauma-sensitize your work.

Now, what may come up next is what kind of questions you're asking on your intake! And of course you should only be asking exactly what you need to know to serve someone best. No more, no less. (Hint: Here's one thing you definitely should be asking about.)

Doing paperwork together doesn't have to take more time either. You writing down their answers to your own questions can actually save time! You can read your own writing better than you can read other peoples. And you can use abbreviations, short-hand or other notes that make sense to you or your staff. Doing paperwork together can save time in the long run, too because you're taking visible steps to build trust with a patient.

Clients and patients come back when they trust us. They show up (early even!) for appointments when there is trust. They follow recommendations and ask for suggestions, when there is trust. For clients with a trauma history, trust is everything. When you take steps to trauma-sensitize your practice, you are building trust with people who really need it.

What are some other low-hanging fruit changes you could make or are making to trauma-sensitize your work? Share a comment below.