There is significant research and discussion about trauma-informed care and trauma-informed environments. Since this idea is still relatively new most of the descriptors are about the emotional and relational aspects within the environment of schools, clinics, hospitals and other places where individuals are subject to levels of chronic stress. At Lakeside we train professionals relationally about the impact of trauma and the skills of trauma-informed environments. Keeping environments emotionally safe, non-judgmental, hopeful and accepting are some of the key components of trauma-informed care. We completely embrace the idea of trauma-informed environments emotionally and relationally.
However, there is more that can be done at very basic levels. Since Lakeside is creating these environments in our schools and other facilities we have learned about the impact of the physical and sensory aspects of our facilities. The color, the décor, furniture styles, sounds, music, visual arts along with the sense of movement, comfortability other stimuli can make a substantial difference to the sense appeal within facilities.
All of us have experienced environments that are less than attractive, too bright, full of hard surfaces with little or no sense of beauty or appeal. It may have seemed as if little or no effort went into the appearance and atmosphere of the building. Sometimes this is due to lack of resources for certain human service environments of might include the sterility and/or disrepair of older facilities. Even some of the more dynamic, high-tech environments can feel cold, over-stimulating and not a place that is inviting and regulating.
It takes a real paradigm shift in our perspective to create trauma-informed facilities. I remember historically that it was permissible and sometimes a bit of an expectation that if you dealt with trauma-impacted clients that the facilities need to be generic, boring and dated. In reality it is exactly the opposite. It is actually more important for organizations who deal with trauma-impacted individuals to be intentional about the “feel” of their facility. It makes a considerable difference to the public to come into calm colors with comfortable furniture, hear and sense regulating sounds and find the warmth of trauma-sensitive individuals to greet them and help them get to the place where they can get the support they need.
As Lakeside becomes more prominent in our leadership of trauma-informed care we are being asked more and more to complement our trauma-informed training with consultation in practical components of facility design, architecture, furniture style, building flow, music background and even how clients are moved through facilities. There are also tools for regulation that need to be available to those who struggle with brain regulation. This kind of regulation-focused environment sets the tone for the activities that occur in any organization. It is worth the time, investment and effort to create special places for hope and healing for those who we encounter in our systems of care.