During the past couple of months, whenever you turn on your television or look at your phone, you will see allegations against individuals who either abused their power, took advantage of a co-worker, or behaved badly.
Sometimes, it’s hard to tell who is really the victim. Co-workers can’t believe the person they knew for so many years could take advantage when they seemed to have done so much good. As we reside in a world full of accusations, misunderstandings and blame, it’s possible that the accused and the accusers will begin to explore what really happened, whether remembering an incident from long ago or recalling a more recent situation. I am confident that due to these high-profile cases, there will be more reporting and accountability at least in more public settings.
Trauma can also be experienced as a result of a natural disaster, family break-up, loss of a significant person in one’s life and illness. One might say trauma needs to be seen through the lens of the person who experienced it. There are individuals who lead such chaotic lives that their trauma may be seen as relative.
At JFS, we counsel clients who have suffered from childhood abuse, emotional abuse and multiple traumas. It takes great courage for an individual to look at what happened to them and come to terms with how the experience impacted his/her life. Trauma-informed care is an approach that aims to engage people with histories of trauma, recognize the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledge the role that trauma has played in an individual’s life. Trauma-informed care takes into account knowledge about trauma in all aspects of service delivery.
Systems that have trauma-informed care recognize that coercive interventions cause trauma and re-traumatization. When a person speaks up, the system values their voice and treats them as a whole person. In a system without trauma sensitivity, individuals are frequently labeled and pathologized. The focus is on what’s wrong with the person and may even blame the person who is speaking up. This creates feelings of low morale and disempowerment.
Trauma-specific treatment is a different, although related concept. It is evidence-based and it directly addresses the impact of trauma on an individual and is designed to treat the actual consequences of trauma. JFS strives to incorporate best practices into our therapeutic environment. Our staff continually takes course work and attends seminars to improve our professional skills so that we can be sensitive to the needs of our clients. The therapeutic work for the client can be a long process and it’s important that therapists are able to hang in there with the client. I believe that individuals learn how to cope with trauma, but they rarely come to terms with it or totally resolve their feelings.
Hopefully, as these issues are more in the public eye, a new respect will develop in the workplace and in our society. There will be fewer victims and a healthier sense of empowerment. Of course, this will take time. It is my hope that with greater education and awareness, those who are victims will also have the support they need to overcome their painful experiences.