This week I have the good fortune of meeting with an organization that we had trained. The leadership of the organization wants their staff to learn about trauma-informed environments. They plan to visit our administrative and training offices to experience what we have designed so that their staff can experience a trauma-informed environment.
What does a visit to a trauma-informed environment look like?
I was just thinking about what components to share with this staff as they visit us this week.
In order for the visit to be memorable, I am choosing to present “Three R’s of a trauma-informed environment.”
1. The first and most primary factor is Relationships.
Trauma-impacted individuals need safe, trusting relationships in order for them to be calm and cognitive. Fear, uncertainty and high threat environments will only dysregulate them more.
Therefore, it is essential the individuals who greet our guests know how to listen actively; be in the nonjudgmental observer role; offer their guests a comfortable greeting; and welcome them into a supportive, nurturing, relational environment.
Certainly there should be professional courtesy, but more, we should be engaging clients in authentic discussion. That means we express genuine interest in what is going on in their world, in their families, and in their experiences which they are willing to share openly. This greeting is a great beginning to any relationship.
2. The second factor, is to provide a safe, nurturing environment which is Regulating.
A regulating environment consists of warm colors. Also, it should have some natural artistic appeal and seating with some level of comfort.
There are environmental tools in the room that invite regulation, such as: cold water, running water, sunlight, calm music, natural light, orderly waiting rooms, clean and pleasant restrooms, soothing art, and an accessible supply of fidgets (used to regulate brain states).
Remember trauma-impacted individuals are experiencing a lot of stress, anxiety and fear. If we are to able to provide a calming and regulating environment, they will be more apt to relax because we are offering a bit of a sanctuary from their difficult lives.
3. The third factor for a trauma-informed environment is Resonance.
Resonance is about the “tone” of the environment. Resonance reflects an environment that functions in harmony.
There are palpable levels of support. There is little chaos. People care about their impact on each other.
There is intentionality not to be dissonant. The staff honor each other’s strengths. They understand that building a good organization means we are in partnership for everyone’s growth as a team.
Further, there is mindfulness, compassion, and hope. Comprehensively, resonance is about helping everyone to be emotionally healthy with each other and for each other.
There is much more I could say about each of these factors.
Each is so important. I fully believe that we must be intentional about our environments when we have the mission of helping traumatized individuals.
An environment that is relational, regulating and resonant is a great beginning to helping those in our care to be calm as they strive to be on the road to healing and recovery from the impact of trauma.