The following is based on trauma-informed care guides from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, found here.
In high school, it was the “in” thing to wear a “What would Jesus do” or WWJD bracelet. Because it was so popular, I know I certainly didn’t take seriously its meaning. When working with the cycle of trauma, I’m reminded how Jesus was faced with trauma in many encounters with people. Jesus himself survived trauma. Jesus’ words are for all who hurt. Trauma is often experienced in a cycle. What would it be like to encounter Jesus in each part of that cycle? What would it be like to experience Jesus in trauma informed care?
2. Safety, trustworthiness, and transparency
To implement trauma-informed care, people need to feel safe. If someone feels unsafe, steps should be taken so that all parties feel they are able to bring their full selves into situations. Trustworthiness is a difficult thing to attain. I’ve noticed in Christian circles that we use transparency and confidentiality to fit our bias and needs. We widen the circle when we feel overwhelmed to get more voices into the mix, but in some situations that causes more harm. (There is also a time and place for widening the circle.) We claim confidentiality when we want to hide blunders or mistakes. Wisdom is needed to know what, where, and when, keeping the safety of all in mind.
3. Peer support
No one is alone, but life after trauma is a lonely time. Often people who haven’t experienced trauma don’t know what to say, or how to relate. Jesus responded to traumatized people with compassion, care, and a deep sense of how pain feels. We are not Jesus, but we can sit with those who have experienced trauma and hold space with them, without trying to fix all the problems. This is why peer support is so important. Those who have been down a similar road can relate in very affirming ways for survivors, and people who want to help can be connecting points for others who are looking to not be alone.
4. Collaboration and mutuality
When appropriate, partnering in healing can be helpful. However, it’s important to be aware of power differentials. Leveling things as much as possible when it comes to survivors is key, and some of that can be achieved with an advocate for survivors when it comes to collaborations with people in power. Note that people in power can also become traumatized in the pain cycle of trauma, or hold secondary trauma, not to mention their own trauma history. All of us know the feeling of being ganged up on, and all of us know when someone wields power in a bad way. When people feel heard and seen, that can be an incredible step toward healing. I often ask the question, “What do you need right now, in this space?”
Trauma survivors feel their power being taken away. All of us have agency in some form or another, which is a human right. No one can fix things for us, but we can love and parent ourselves into becoming more resilient. Part of this is knowing when to hold someone’s hand and when to let them walk on their own. And for trauma survivors, taking those first steps on one’s own is terrifying. But in doing so, you can look back on how far you’ve come.