Mental Health and Addictions: Trauma-informed practices

Jan 2021 | Resources

Mental health and addictions are an essential topic of discussion when it comes to many individuals in our community who are suffering from trauma. Trauma is the lasting emotional response from living through deeply distressing events. And many member organizations of Nanaimo Homeless Coalition engage in a strengths-based approach to service delivery. They use trauma-informed practice and care to support and improve the well-being of individuals. They take the mental health and addictions of their members very seriously.

The service system can be overwhelming. It can re-traumatize individuals affecting their willingness to participate and engage. This is why trauma-informed practice is so important. Safety, trustworthiness and partnerships are the key to promoting healing. Trauma-informed practice means being committed to collective learning and action, committed to a culture of learning together.

What is being ‘trauma aware’?

Trauma-informed practice integrates an understanding of past and current experiences of violence and trauma into all aspects of service delivery.

Being ‘trauma aware’ means that service providers understand that trauma has affected many in our community. With this, they recognize the wide range of responses and adaptations that individuals make to cope with their trauma. For example, individuals may have difficulty building relationships, they may miss appointments and they may distrust authority figures.

The goal of trauma-informed practices is to avoid re-traumatizing individuals as they work towards healing their mental health. There are five guiding principles for how service providers work to reduce the chance of re-traumatization: safety, choice, collaboration, trustworthiness and empowerment

Ensuring an individual’s physical, emotional and spiritual safety is the first important step of trauma-informed practice. This is the foundation of building strong, trustworthy relationships between service providers and individuals.

Creating opportunities for choice, collaboration and connection with individuals is important. When an individual has choice and control of their service experience, they’ll be more likely to participate and the services will be more effective.

Trustworthiness is built in the establishment and consistency of boundaries with service providers.  Building trust includes ongoing clear communication about what is expected of the individual, and consistent checking in with clients. Trauma-informed practice meets clients where they are at without agenda, timelines and expectations.

Finally, empowerment focuses on an individual’s strengths and encourages them to build on those strengths to promote resiliency and coping skills. Building these skills and confidence can help individuals manage triggers of trauma and support their ongoing healing.

Trauma-informed practices are sensitive to trauma in all aspects of service delivery and are concerned with the individual’s safety and empowerment. Service providers work towards trust, connection, collaboration and empowerment of individuals on their path to healing.

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