Lakeside provides trauma-informed training to many systems of care in various professions and different communities. It is always quite interesting to experience the abounding opinions and receptivity to trauma-informed care. Some professionals and organizations are very open and want to learn all they can. Others do not see the need or they may have different priorities with little or no knowledge or context of trauma or its impact.
When some of our systems are trauma-informed and others are not that reality creates some difficulties for the clients they serve. Imagine this scenario. A student is arrested for possession and use of an illicit drug. They come before a judge in the juvenile justice system where the judge offers either punishment or a rehabilitation program. The student goes into a rehabilitation program for a few days where it is discovered that the student has high anxiety. The student is then referred to a psychiatrist who prescribes an anti-anxiety medication along with counseling by a psychologist. The psychologist quickly learns from the student that one of the main contributors to the student’s anxiety is poor performance in school. When they attempt to contact the school guidance counselor, the guidance counselor has significant evidence that there is domestic violence in the home of the student.
One might think that this is an extreme situation but quite honestly it is not. Often, we find several overwhelming or disheartening issues co-appearing at the same time in a student’s life. With limited treatment options, overloaded systems of care, too many students who are anxiety-ridden and the consistent availability of drugs it is predictable that a situation like this one could easily be a reality for many students. We see it quite frequently at Lakeside.
What we often find in some communities is that many of our systems of care for students are siloed, meaning that they provide treatment and care independently of each other. Some systems are trauma-informed, others are nominally trauma-informed and some are not trauma-informed at all. We know that much of what we see in a highly anxious student is more than just anxiety.
In the case I just cited the cause is domestic violence that influences school performance and leads to other behaviors like drug use. If various professionals have completely different lenses for this student’s behavior, the perceptions and approaches will also differ. The reality is that this same student may receive conflicting information and assessments about their life dilemma. Some may blame them. Some may label them. Some may prescribe a regulating drug. Some may punish them. Some may ask what happened to them and seek a trauma-informed approach that could reveal the first domino-effect to all the rest of the issues present in a person’s life.
This varying therapeutic process can be confusing, disillusioning and even damaging to the student. If we are going to truly help this student, all of the professionals that have impact in their life need to have the same basic knowledge, language, skills and process for healing and recovery. This is why therapeutic silos are difficult. If we are to truly provide hope for recovery and healing for issues like domestic violence, abuse, neglect or other adverse childhood experiences, all of our professionals need to share a trauma-informed approach. It seems obvious that it would be extremely helpful to those affected if we are consistent in how we evaluate and approach the cause of their behavior. That will provide the best possible therapeutic intervention. Approaches and interventions that are fragmented or inconsistent will probably frustrate the student have a negative affect on them.
This is why I strongly advocate that we provide trauma-informed training to all of our professionals who deal with trauma-impacted individuals within their community. It should be a common protocol that these systems of care are interdependent and need a level of uniformity in order to deal with students in a holistic and consistent manner. I believe that if we eliminate the therapeutic silos and unify our language, our understanding of the impact of trauma and our approaches to therapeutic interventions would become more effective, efficient and could then provide compassionate care to students who have a trauma history.