Medical science has learned much about the ways our brains work, and some of the most important discoveries focus on the interaction between our physical and mental health. As researchers discover more about the effects emotions have upon the brain’s functioning, medical doctors and professional counselors are better able to treat people.
A developing understanding of trauma is a key example. There’s an ever-growing body of evidence that traumatic effects can have long-lasting effects on our brain chemistry. The groundbreaking Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) study clearly identified a connection between traumatic events experienced during childhood and how it affects one’s health and emotional well-being for decades afterward. The more adverse experiences a child faces, the more likely they’ll have significant medical and emotional problems as adults.
We’re also learning more about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in which traumatic events affect brain chemistry, causing people who have PTSD to react defensively to non-threatening situations.
What’s come to be called trauma-informed care is a way of treating people that seeks to understand how past traumas and reactions to those traumas may be behind current problems someone is facing. For example, a child who easily becomes belligerent in school many be unconsciously acting out because of past traumas. It isn’t that she’s a “bad kid,” it’s that bad things happened to her, and when she feels afraid or overwhelmed, her brain rushes to defend her. She doesn’t respond to situations the way we expect youngsters to, because she can’t.
Trauma-informed care is important for people whose jobs involve interacting with others, from classroom teachers, to medical staff, to police officers and paramedics. The more we know about the effects of trauma, the better we’ll be able to recognize those effects and provide genuine help to someone in a challenging situation. Without that understanding, we may be judgmental toward people who have experienced trauma and even make the situation worse.
Care to Change regularly holds trainings about trauma, and we can provide specialized workshops to groups that may regularly encounter people who have experienced traumas. If you’re interested in learning more about what we can do to help you and your organization, please contact us today.