Trauma Informed Care: The Social Work Practice

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As a social worker, you will often encounter individuals with a history of trauma. Caring for the needs of clients with trauma exposure is challenging and requires a special approach. Throughout my social work program, I’ve learned about trauma informed care, however, it wasn’t until my senior practicum — working in a residential treatment facility with 13-18 year-old state-committed youth — that I truly realized the scope and effectiveness of trauma informed care.

What is Trauma?

Before you can begin to delve into trauma informed care, you must understand what trauma is. Trauma is best explained as exposure to an extraordinary experience in which an individual feels overwhelming helplessness and fear due to the experience of threat, or perceived threat to oneself or others. Exposure includes but is not limited to direct trauma involvement, witness of trauma, or learning of the trauma.

What is the definition of Trauma Informed Care (TIC)?

Trauma informed care is a method of service delivery that recognizes the physical, emotional and functional impact trauma has on the lives of individual’s. TIC utilizes principles of safety, trust, collaboration, choice and empowerment to create a safe and positive environment to promote the physical and emotional well-being of clients without inadvertently re-traumatizing.

What does TIC look like in social work practice?

Depending upon the population and needs that a social worker may serve, TIC can look different from agency to agency. For example, in a residential facility working with female teenagers committed to the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS), TIC is implemented by ensuring the youth feel respected and supported through all forms of communication, and that social workers make themselves accessible in possible times of crisis. While each agency’s TIC practices may differ slightly, all TIC practices serve the same goal of promoting physical and emotional well-being.

What does TIC mean for the client?

Approaching trauma exposed individuals with compassion and understanding promotes positive experiences and interactions. As social workers, we yearn for the day we hear a client say something along the lines of, “Wow, you actually care about me.” Implementing TIC intervention methods into our social work practice teaches our clients just that. That we care enough to take time out of our previous “typical” plan of engagement to dig deeper and acknowledge how vital it is that we serve the specific needs of individuals with trauma exposure.

Why is TIC considered a social work practice?

Social workers are taught to train their minds to engage, assess, and intervene on a holistic approach or entirety outlook. TIC is no different. In fact, TIC supports the idea of implementing change “across the board” compared to the old fashioned “Band-Aid fix”.

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By: Logan Hinkle, EKU social work student

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