Updated: Apr 5, 2022
The unusual circumstances of the pandemic has caused a huge increase in levels and awareness of trauma in the population. In England alone, the NHS forecasts 230,000 extra cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to Covid. Some are as a direct result of the illness, whilst others are due to the change in circumstances, loss of loved ones, lack of connection or having old trauma triggered by the pandemic experience.
This means more people than ever are having to deal with trauma, or are coming to terms with the fact they have been traumatised in the first place.
What is meant by trauma?
The term trauma can refer to a wide range of difficult, neglectful or abusive events or series of events that are experienced as being emotionally or physically harmful or life threatening. It can include purely physical experiences such as a car accident, one off experiences such as being mugged or attacked, or long-term experiences such as physical and emotional neglect, sexual abuse, bullying, verbal abuse, with-holding of privileges or a life-threatening illness.
When a person undergoes a traumatic event, their brain and body creates coping mechanisms to preserve life. These can include:
Anxiety and hypervigilance (can't switch off)
Worrying and hyperfocus (observing for threats)
Immobile and going numb (freezing)
Dissociating and loss of focus (e.g. unable to sense/feel/hear)
People pleasing and self sacrifice
Loss of mental clarity and submission
Anger, aggression and controlling behaviours
Addiction (e.g. gaming, alcohol, food, shopping)
Chronic shame and lack of confidence.
Not everyone realises that their coping behaviours are caused by trauma. Those that are young or older generations may not understand about trauma and it's consequences. Others may be aware, but do not as yet feel safe enough to address the issue.
What is meant by Trauma Informed Practice?
Trauma Informed Practice means to understand that trauma exists, how it affects people and adjusting the way services are delivered to increase feelings of safety and facilitate people to support themselves.
Being ‘Trauma Informed’ means being able to recognise when someone may be affected by trauma, adjusting how we work to take this into account and responding in a way that supports their wellbeing and recognises and supports people's resilience.
A trauma informed practitioner is mindful to avoid retraumatising a client and insteads offers the client choice, control over what happens, the opportunity to collaborate in the healing process and keeps their own ego and agenda out of interactions. They also offer a warm and friendly connection, with plenty of empathy, patience and understanding.
For example, the ways I support clients, in particular traumatised clients is to:
Explain clearly what is on offer
Communicate my credentials and share a little about my journey to demonstrate my understanding of my subject matter and my first hand experiences
Offer a choice of locations. Both coaching and Reiki can be done in person or from the comfort of your own home.
Intentionally create a safe environment for change
Operate on a "Challenge by choice" basis. I.e. the client determines the destination, pace and pathway through which our interactions are done by asking how they would like the session to go
Make it clear people can stop a session or take a time out at any point without being judged
Be grounded and secure in myself, offering a calm nervous system to co-regulate with
Communicate changes well in advance
Explain how people may react when we are working together, why that happens, how long it may last and how to handle it
Be consistent and dependable
Be available pre and post session to answer questions
Handle trauma behaviours with patience and sensitivity. Understand that people's responses aren't personal and everyone is just trying to do their best with the resources they have
Request permission to touch (Reiki). Avoid working around areas that may be triggering until a secure connection has been established
See the best in an individual, visualising them as whole
Ask in advance how they best like to be supported if they are triggered
Make sure clients are in a good place before the session ends and able and ready to go about their day
Be a neutral vessel for the other person's healing
Only ask for details relevant to what we are working on
Process personal data securely
Maintain my professional development and adhere to codes of best practice.
As a practitioner that may work directly or indirectly with a person's trauma, it's highly important I keep learning on the subject.
This 9 minute video by NHS Education For Scotland explains more how trauma can happen, how it may show up in people's lives and what we as members of the public and service providers can do to help.
What support do you provide or has worked well for you when dealing with trauma?