Forthcoming CRCI Course Will Help Behavioral Health Workers Identify Trauma and Work within a Trauma Informed Approach
This summer, DirectCourse: College of Recovery and Community Inclusion (CRCI) will launch a new course on the basics of understanding trauma. The course, Trauma Matters: Providing Trauma Informed Supports and Services, will consist of twelve lessons, and help learners understand trauma, its impacts and prevalence, and trauma-informed care.
Karen Johnson is Director of Trauma-Informed Services at the National Council for Behavioral Health in Washington, D.C., and is one of the writers DirectCourse has commissioned to create this important course.
Johnson explains the urgency of learning the basics of trauma care. “The prevalence of trauma is very high in society today—much higher than we previously understood. Over 90% of people who come in for services in behavioral health care have a trauma history. Not everyone with a trauma history seeks behavioral health services, but most who do have this history.”
She notes that the purpose of Trauma Matters: Providing Trauma Informed Supports and Services, is to introduce learners to a basic understanding of trauma. “One of the very first questions we ask is: ‘What is Trauma?’, Johnson notes. “We also discuss the ‘Three E’s: Events, Experiences, and Effects.’”
Johnson explains that the “Three E’s” can be described as an Event that someone Experiences that has an Effect on the development of their lifelong journey. “It’s a definition that’s broad in scope and is ultimately defined by the individual,” she adds.
The course examines the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) definition of trauma, which states, “Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as overwhelming or life-changing and that has profound effect on the individual’s psychological development or well-being, often involving a physiological, social, and/or spiritual impact.”
The course also examines the various types of trauma, which include (though are not limited to) child maltreatment such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. “Lots of people don’t include neglect,” Johnson observes, “but that is a piece of the puzzle that many children experience and which has a huge impact on their development.”
Other types of trauma include serious accident or illness, medical procedures, natural disaster, war, terrorism, political violence, traumatic grief or separation, experience of a significant loss, and historical and generational trauma is also included. “Trauma also applies to any of those who witness an event,” Johnson says. “People who witness domestic violence, or community or school violence, are also trauma victims. Because they are impacted by the event, they experience it, and have effects that continue after the event is over.”
Most importantly, Johnson wants workers in the behavioral health field to experience what she calls a “paradigm shift”. “We want people to look at their work through a trauma-informed care lens,” she says. “To understand that people who come in for behavioral health services often have a long list of challenges and to understand that those are symptoms—which are adaptations as a result the trauma. Their challenges are not a result of their ill will, or a moral weakness, or because they are trying to be difficult. It is a result of them having had experiences in their life which they survived.”
“And that is to their credit,” she continues. “All trauma survivors are resilient in the fact that they’ve come through that initial experience and survived it. But as a result of that they may have developed adaptations—such as smoking, drinking, aggressive behavior, self-harm, a long list of things that can result from a person’s experience with a traumatic event. The good news is that people can heal from the trauma and experience what we call post-traumatic growth.”
The College of Recovery and Community Inclusion Trauma Matters: Providing Trauma Informed Supports and Services course is expected to roll out in the summer of 2015, and until then Johnson and her colleagues are continuing to improve upon it and monitor current developments in the field. When finished, the CRCI course will be an ideal training tool for any behavioral health organization, large or small.
“We want organizations and individuals to take a more trauma-informed approach,” Johnson says. “When a program, an organization, or a system becomes more trauma-informed – this means they realize the impact of trauma and how one can recover, they recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma, they resist re-traumatization, and respond by totally integrating knowledge of trauma into policies, procedures, practices and settings. We want everyone, from the CEO to the janitor – the whole organization and system – to take this approach.”