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Becoming Psychological, Adversity and Trauma Informed


A note on becoming a trauma responsive organisation*

We know that people are shaped by the things that have happened to them throughout their lives, and that past experiences continue to have an effect in the present.

As humans, we all have a story to tell. The things that happen in our lives affect us all to a greater or lesser extent. We adapt our behaviour as a way of coping.

We survive and thrive because of our experiences. And we may do so in complex ways.

What is felt as trauma or as adverse is personal to each of us. It could be a significant single event such as a car crash or a bereavement, but it could also be a prolonged series of significant experiences.

Experiences of trauma and adversity are widespread which is why we are determined to develop an organisation that acknowledges the experiences of trauma and adversity on people’s lives, and the social context (for example, inequality and racism) these often happen within.

People’s experiences shape them. This is why we consciously build in an attitude of reflection and curiosity in the way we work across the organisation.

Creativity has an important role in recovery but maybe one that’s not recognised as fully as it could be, especially in the day-to-day delivery of mental health services.We spoke to one of Second Step’s psychologists, Jo, and one of our clients(who also happens to be an artist) David, about why this might be the case.

Trauma and relationships

Relationships really matter. The trauma and adversity we are talking about can often happen within relationships. When people display complex ways of surviving, it is likely this is because of adversity experienced in their childhood and/ or throughout their lifetime**. What’s more, it is known that there is a strong link between adverse childhood experiences and poor physical and mental health across the lifespan.***

However, relationships are also a vehicle for healing. Relational trauma requires relational repair. What is certain is that every interaction has the potential to be meaningful and make a difference.

At Second Step, we are guided by the process of relational safety, in how we interact with people using our services, and each other within the organisation. This means making sure that people feel safe, heard and validated, and that we respond to challenges reflectively. Doing so allows us to build strong relationships through which people can thrive.

What next?

We believe that an awareness of trauma and the importance of safe relationships is essential for creating thriving and resilient teams, systems and societies.

Our aim is to provide the best possible environment for our staff to build relationships and reflect on the way that they work. New training programmes, focused service user involvement, learning forums and staff support will build awareness of this approach, for example, and provide skills to put the learning into practice. We will do all this is partnership with staff and people who use services. We will create a document for people using services that explains our trauma informed approach and outlines how to get involved.

For more information, please contact Jo Davies, Lead for Psychological, Adversity and Trauma Informed Practice on joanna.davies@second-step.co.uk


*We use trauma informed as a summary phrase for psychological adversity and trauma informed

**85% of the people in touch with criminal justice, substance misuse and homelessness services have experienced childhood trauma (Lankelly Chace Foundation, 2015)

***Taken from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (Anda et al, 2010)