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What is Trauma-Informed Care?

What is Trauma-Informed Care?, Trauma, Adverse childhood experiences, Post-traumatic stress disorder, Trauma-informed care, trauma-informed practices

It can be difficult to recover from a traumatic experience when you are constantly facing things that remind you of that painful experience or make you feel unsafe. The Pavilion at Williamsburg Place in Williamsburg, Virginia, proudly offers trauma-informed practices that are evidence-based, individualized to each patient, and considers the whole person and their support system.

What is Trauma?

Trauma is an emotional response that occurs when a person experiences a horrifying, life-threatening, or overwhelming event that they do not have the skills to manage. Some trauma is caused by intentional actions of other people, but it can also be caused unintentionally or by natural disasters. Each person has a unique perspective and set of coping skills, so what one person finds traumatic may not be so for another individual. However, some events that are frequently traumatic for people to endure include:

  • Sexual assault
  • Abuse
  • Warfare
  • Violence
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Placement in foster care

What are ACEs?

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events that happen to a person in childhood. ACEs have been correlated with many mental and physical health issues later in life. ACEs can often be prevented and the impact of ACEs can be minimized if the young person has adequate protective factors, such as caregivers who keep them safe and access to professional support.

Signs of Trauma

There is not just one “normal” response to traumatic events. Different people respond in their own ways to horrific events. Some of the most common responses are:

  • Detachment, numbness, or emotional distancing
  • Being more easily startled and generally on edge
  • Poor focus and concentration; memory issues
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Nightmares, hallucinations, or flashbacks
  • Avoiding people and places related to the event or that remind them of the trauma
  • Irritability and difficulty managing emotions; intrusive or negative thoughts

Trauma Versus PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition that can result from trauma, but not all people who experience trauma will automatically develop PTSD. PTSD can show up months or even years after a traumatic event and tends to include more intense, prolonged symptoms than most people would endure following something traumatic. The factors that can prevent trauma from developing into PTSD include:

  • Strong social supports
  • Practicing strategies to manage emotions like deep breathing, muscle relaxation, meditation, and getting plenty of time in nature
  • Grounding exercises that remind the person they are now in a safe place
  • Therapy

Trauma and Behavioral Health

While trauma is something most people have experienced or will experience, people who struggle with mental health or substance use disorders are likely to have experienced more trauma than the general population. They may have also experienced more repeated, sustained traumas and may have struggled to find support from other people at the time of the incident or in the period since it occurred.

What is Trauma-Informed Care?

Trauma is exceedingly common. Trauma-informed care involves recognizing this and taking steps not to trigger or worsen the trauma of the people you serve. Because it is not always possible to know who has experienced trauma, being trauma-informed means operating as if everyone involved could have some history of trauma. Some examples of how this applies in a healthcare setting include:

  • Training staff about trauma and how it can impact physical and mental health
  • Ensuring staff are knowledgeable and accepting of people from different cultures
  • Screening patients for prior trauma
  • Ensuring all staff members treat patients with warmth, empathy, and compassion
  • Creating a safe environment
    • Ensuring all areas are well lit, including on evenings and weekends:
      • Parking lots
      • Common areas
      • Bathrooms
      • Entrances/exits
    • Employing security guards as appropriate
    • Not allowing people to loiter outside entrances and exits
    • Keeping noise levels low in waiting areas
    • Providing patients with information about what is going to happen, so they can mentally prepare and are not caught by surprise
    • Giving patients control wherever possible:
      • Allowing them to decide if they would prefer to have a door open or closed
      • Allowing them to have support people with them
      • Providing forms containing sensitive information in advance, so that they may complete them in privacy
      • Ensuring patients know their rights and feel safe exercising them

At the Pavilion at Williamsburg Place, we seek to make our programs as trauma-informed as possible. Our team is trained in trauma-informed practices, and our facilities and services are structured to provide safety and consistency.

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About programs offered at The Pavilion at Williamsburg Place

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