It can be difficult to talk about trauma and how it affects us long after it might have passed. Once you are in a safe space and the visible, immediate consequence are no longer apparent, it is natural to want to move on. Until there is a moment when you are surprised by an emotion or behaviour that is long-term response to the trauma you experienced some time ago. This is a normal response, which affects anyone that has experienced atraumatic event.
As a person who is caring for a young person you might have your own trauma that influences how you relate to others. You also have the responsibility to be aware of how the young person’s past might influence their present and to help them heal.
Trauma-informed practice encompasses a variety of different models and describes various forms of practice.
The ambition is organisational and system change, not only affecting frontline practice but supervision, recruitment, and other structures.
Prominent advocates of trauma-informed practice include Karen Treisman and Stephanie Covington.
According to Treisman the guiding principles are:
With all these theories it is important to not simplify the very complex impact trauma and adverse experience has on practice and relationships. At the heart of any practice should always be the young person’s well-being and needs.
To become trauma-informed it can be useful to start with honest self-reflection or reflection with colleagues on how well you currently consider trauma-informed principles in your work. A lot can be learnt from other organisation to understand how they implemented trauma-informed practice. However, most important is to adapt the learnings to your context. Speaking and listening to young people is also essential to understand how your current practice has impacted them.
NES Scotland has some useful resources for individuals and organisations.
Relationships are an important part of everyone’s life. For example, everything we learn as children depends on others teaching us. But did you know that good relationships also have an influence on our physical and mental health (Griffith, 2017)? Relationship-based practice combines what we know about childhood development, trauma, resilience, and relationships to promote the best for children and adolescents.
First introductions matter. It matters when, how and where they happen. Many young people speak about transitions are often the most difficult times. In this Guide we explore how transitions can be done from the lens of relational practice.
What do IT systems and relationships have in common? Both usually run in the background and are easily taken for granted. Perhaps surprisingly, IT systems can have a big influence on the quality of relationships and relational practice in general.
When you know your goal you do whatever you need to do to reach it. But what if you defined the goal in the wrong way? In this Guide we explore how the goal affects your actions and how you can make sure that you are measuring your success in the right way. Are you meeting an outcome or are you filling a need?
One of the first things you learn when you start your job is when you need to arrive and when you need to leave. Have you ever considered that the pattern of your work affects the relationships you are building?
Organisational values influence the working culture. They can inspire workers to follow the organisation's mission. However, for them to have an impact they need to be developed with staff and young people.
It is important to keep learning and growing. Recognise your staff’s value and expertise by developing internal training and discussion sessions. Enable staff to learn and train more. Training should not be a tick-box exercise but a place for growth and reflection.
As is often said, hurt people hurt people – it is even more important to consider the flipside: supported people support people. Working with young people and caring for them can be a demanding role, especially in under-resourced and stressful environments. A truly relational organisation also invests in the relationships between managers and staff, creating a positive environment for everyone.
Relationships do not just depend on one person, but rather on a network of people and the culture of an organisation. Sometimes one person who simple ‘doesn’t get it’ can put barriers in the way for an entire team to become less relational. So, it’s easy to see why recruiting the right people is so important to create and maintain a relational organisation.
All relationships take time and effort to build and develop relationships with young people with care experience is no exception, perhaps being even more difficult due to their backgrounds however with the right understanding and approach you could develop a strong and positive connection which will benefit both you and your young person.
Relationships are essential to all parts of life and encompass both our professional and personal lives. They are a vital part of the support networks for our young people and the stronger the relationship the better we can all do our jobs, perhaps making them feel less like a job and more like a vocation. And perhaps more importantly, the stronger the relationship the more important a young person might feel.