What is trauma-informed care and why is it important?
Trauma-informed care is about changing the way we perceive the people we serve:
Trauma-informed care does not focus on people’s problems; instead we aim to meet people where they are at, understanding that something may have happened in their past.
A trauma-informed approach includes a person’s interaction with our staff, the delivery and type of services we offer, and the physical environment we deliver our services from.
Trauma-informed care principles
Employing trauma-informed practice at Sacred Heart Mission means adhering to the following principles:
- Trauma awareness
Staff and volunteers are all required to undertake one of three levels of trauma-informed training appropriate to their position in order to recognise trauma symptoms and respond appropriately.
- Promote safety
As trauma survivors often feel at risk of further trauma, a sense of both physical and emotional safety are important to recovery.
- Rebuilding control
Trauma is disempowering, as is homelessness. Trauma-informed services offer a predictable environment to allow people to rebuild a sense of efficacy and control over their lives. Predictable and reliable relationships with workers also reinforce healthy boundaries and help-seeking behaviour.
- Promote connection
Social networks play a critical role in promoting resilience and recovery. Ideally, trauma survivors will develop healthy connections with friends, family and significant others.
- Focus on strengths and resources
We support people to identify their own strengths and develop or enhance their personal coping skills. While we acknowledge the challenges people have experienced, we support people to articulate and work toward their hopes for the future.
- Maintaining a belief in recovery
This principle reminds us that people can and do recover from trauma. Conveying hope emphatically requires us to understand the barriers to recovery including lack of financial resources or living in unsafe or chaotic environments.
When we support people we maintain a ‘do no harm’ approach, where we do not re-traumatise or blame the victim. If trauma survivors experience services as unsafe, disempowering and/or invalidating they may withdraw from seeking support.
The benefits of trauma-informed care when working with people experiencing homelessness
Most of the people we support have survived violence and ongoing abuse as children and through their adult life.
Trauma can have a long-lasting effect on all aspects of someone’s life, on their brain chemistry and how they think, feel and behave. It’s the consequence of a shocking, terrifying, devastating experience that is either:
- life-threatening (e.g. abuse or assault), or
- threatening to someone’s physical integrity or sense of self (e.g. rape or sexual assault).
At Sacred Heart Mission we see how a person’s mental health is affected by trauma and how trauma can affect people’s ability to communicate and connect with others.
We see first-hand how a history of violence and relentless danger can affect a person’s ability to look after themselves, feel safe, and be connected in healthy ways to other people.
Trauma is more complex and severe when it is caused by the actions of other people.
Through research on trauma and its impacts on people we’re able to better understand people experiencing homelessness and more effectively support their recovery journeys.
Acknowledging violence and its potential lifelong effects as part of our trauma-informed approach helps us understand the challenges faced by people who have experienced trauma, impacting them biologically, socially, and psychologically.
The Trauma and Homelessness Initiative was a collaborative project by Sacred Heart Mission, MIND Australia, Inner South Community Health and VincentCare Victoria aiming to achieve better outcomes for people experiencing long-term homelessness and trauma.
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