For many of us, the past year and a half has been traumatizing. We have all collectively undergone an experience that changed the way we live our lives every day. From how we dress to how we work, to even how we do or don’t spend time with those we love the most. No one has been immune from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The thing about trauma is that it affects everyone differently. It can have a devastating impact on the way children learn, how we work, and how we heal from things that have caused us physical or emotional pain.
That’s precisely why the South Texas Trauma Informed Care Consortium took shape — it’s a community-wide effort to improve how we approach care. The consortium’s goal is to develop a certified, trauma-informed Bexar County. They teach that “a Trauma Informed Care Approach emphasizes the physical, psychological, and emotional safety for clients/work force/participants/patients and providers to assist trauma survivors to strengthen their resiliency, gain their empowerment and thrive.”
Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas Inc. has been a longtime supporter of the consortium. We agree that in order to better serve our patients/clients and to support our team members, a trauma-informed care approach is essential.
So, when the consortium engaged the Ecumenical Center to develop a certification program for trauma-informed care, we were among first to sign up.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, challenged us to “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” We take those words to heart and decided to act by taking the first steps towards becoming certified in trauma-informed care. And we are proud to have recently earned that Level 1 certification from the Ecumenical Center, the first organization in South Texas to do so. By taking this step, we are enhancing the relationships we build with the patients and clients we see in our own clinics and ultimately, improve their health outcomes.
It’s a step we hope other organizations will take so that together we can become a trauma-informed Bexar County. The Ecumenical Center is building a list of other organizations interested in pursuing their certification. There are currently more than 50 organizations on a waitlist, and they are launching different cohorts of entities pursuing their own certification. The types of organizations include a variety of nonprofits — including trauma-focused entities, youth-serving organizations, family support agencies, as well as those serving the homeless, schools, governmental offices, mental health-focused clinics, and churches.
The benefits of becoming trauma-informed go beyond certification. It’s a powerful declaration that tells our community that you are an ally in their health and well-being. It leads to improved client and staff satisfaction, safer and healthier behaviors, and higher quality of service.
Fundamentally, this helps shift the way we treat each other, our partners and the patients and clients we serve with an approach that asks not “what’s wrong with you?” but rather “what happened to you?” In other words, what experiences have you had that make you who you are today?
In the book What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing, Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce D. Perry say “in essence it’s approaching people with the awareness that what happened to you is important. That it influences your behavior and health. And then using that awareness to act accordingly and respond appropriately whether you’re a parent, a teacher, a friend, therapist, doctor, police officer, judge.”
Another benefit of becoming more trauma-informed is that it can lead to increased employee engagement and participation while also reducing stress and improving retention and staff resilience. Your workforce can feel safer and more empowered as they do their work to care for and provide for the patients and clients who are also in need of special support in dealing with painful experiences.
For an organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the people and places we serve, such as ourselves, the decision to become certified was clear. However, the principles and benefits apply to many other types of organizations. If you are an entity that helps people who have faced trauma, and just about most do, then you can benefit from this process too. From nonprofits, doctors’ offices, and clinics to hospitals, public agencies, utilities, faith-based organizations, and more. If you are seeing people at their most vulnerable, in the midst of trauma, or those still dealing with a trauma (unconsciously or not), then you should look at becoming a practitioner of trauma-informed care.
In the end, if we want to bring about a positive change for our community, we should all strive to act in a way that brings about those changes. Becoming a trauma-informed organization is one more way to “do all the good you can” as we are called to do by John Wesley. If we can live out those words, then we will have made a positive mark on our community and made it a more trauma-informed community for all.