Imagine that you are a counselor, and one day a patient comes to you complaining that he always has nightmares. However, when he is telling you about his stories, he seems to be pretty calm which makes you wonder if he is making these up or not. Then you take a look at his medical record and find that he had an abusive family when he was young. In this way, his calm may be a way to avoid past trauma or just simply to protect his inner feelings (camouflage). You would not know this if you do not understand his past trauma. Therefore, it is significant for counselors to understand patient’ background to gain a better understanding of their behavior.
Trauma is nothing rare. It is estimated that 70% of the US population has experienced some forms of trauma once in their lives. Different people may have different understandings or definitions of trauma. Usually trauma poses severe physical or psychological threats to the person. It can even be life threatening. Some people may go on to develop the disorder which we call Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Some common types of trauma are: rape, life threatening incidents, etc.
It is important to understand that when people have trauma experiences, especially in childhood, they may not react the same way as we expect. Therefore, it is important for health professionals to learn about trauma-informed care to better understand patients’ needs. Trauma-informed care is essentially saying when counselors meet new clients, they need to learn about his or her history, especially past trauma so that they will better understand his or her behavior and will then use appropriate coping techniques. According to “Shelter from the Storm: Trauma-Informed Care in Homelessness Services Settings”, trauma informed care refers “generally to a philosophical/ cultural stance that integrates awareness and understanding of trauma, there is no consensus on a definition that clearly explains the nature of TIC.”
A lot of trauma has a root in childhood experiences. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (According to Psychology today, it measures “associations between childhood trauma, stress, and maltreatment and health and well-being later in life”) scores were found to be highly correlated with a lot of aspects affecting well-being like work performance, emotion control, health and risky behaviors. A higher score is also significantly linked to a person’s health in later life, including heart diseases, cancer etc. Trauma experiences can affect every day functioning, sensation and cognition as well. However, different people may have different copying reactions to specific situation, so when assessing a patient overall well-being, we cannot just compare it to other people’s reaction as trauma is usually biologically based (Some people are more fragile than others).
Right now, coping strategies for trauma are still poorly understood. In order to understand a person as a whole, we need to understand these victims, otherwise we may interpret their behaviors wrongly. Past trauma affects us not only physically, but also emotionally and psychologically. Thus, we need to put more efforts into educating people about trauma-informed care to avoid re-victimization and to best help the patient. Research has also pointed out that education is “the first and most important step in making services more trauma informed”.
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