By Jill Hayward
A Trauma Informed Practice Training was hosted by the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative, Clearwater Local Action Team, at the Dutch Lake Community Centre on Oct. 18 – 20.
Dr. Linda O’Neill, CCC, CTS, facilitated the training, with those attending the training including frontline service providers, counsellors, Aboriginal counsellors, Aboriginal support workers, youth support workers, social workers, School District staff caregivers, foster parents and parents. Attendees were from many areas of the North Thompson Valley (including Barriere and Clearwater) as well as Williams Lake, Kamloops, and Prince George.
Training facilitator Dr. O’Neill is a practicing counsellor, a certified trauma specialist and counsellor educator who is the Clinical Coordinator at the UNBC Community Care Centre in Prince George, B.C. From years of trauma practice in the Prince George community and the far North, and through research on all aspects of trauma effects and interventions, O’Neill has compiled and designed trauma informed training with former research assistants and colleagues. O’Neill says she customizes the training for each professional group to ensure the greatest relevancy to practice.
Trauma informed practice is a systems approach designed to better support the people that front line service providers deal with; clients, patients, children, youth and adults, and families who may have experienced adverse events in their lives, particularly early events resulting in various presentations and needs supported and served through health, justice and social services.
Trauma informed practice does not require specific disclosure of trauma; rather it is a systems-wide lens focusing on safe practices and healthy relationships to assist with people living lives less defined by traumatic experiences. This approach differs from trauma specific practices that involve additional specialized training and professional work in order to safely and appropriately treat more complicated, chronic trauma-based symptoms assessed as appropriate for reprocessing techniques.
“Trauma takes away power, control and fun,” commented O’Neill in during her presentation, “Out of trauma also comes workaholics and perfectionists.”
She noted, “Everyone has different ways to cope with trauma. In Canada one in three children can cope. Every time we interact with someone we touch the trauma. So let’s work with this in a way that is safe and caring. First responders, RCMP, every service should be training in how to deal with people who have experienced trauma. Safety, stabilization, connection. Healing isn’t in the details – we don’t need the details to help.”
O’Neill also emphasized, “You can’t fix trauma – you lower the stress. We are trying to help people become competent in learning different ways of coping.”
O’Neill also spoke about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), saying, “PTSD is extremely complex, give it time, and it will not get better – but it will get worse without support.”
The training also covered a lot of information and the newest best practices in dealing with children who have experienced trauma.
O’Neill said, “Long term stress and trauma in little ones may alter neurons in the brain. The first 10 years of development is crucial.”
She told about a coping with stress experiment that was done with children in a class at a school. “It showed that they could only go 11 minutes before they were stressed about having to check their cell phones.”
O’Neill also spoke about how past trauma can cause humans to change how they feel by turning to such things as exercise, gambling, becoming a workaholic, extensive use of social media, and even knitting; while others my turn to drugs, alcohol, or pornography to cope.
“Would you really want to give up something that took away nightmares, overwhelming fear, terror, etcetera? That’s why substance abuse is so hard to stop,” said O’Neill, “Trauma and addictions sit side-by-side. The war on drugs will be won by war on trauma”
Psycho-educational information on trauma effects for both staff and the people being served was a major component of the training, based on the latest research in neurobiology, and safe, effective trauma support.
Understanding the importance of safety and the power of relationship in establishing or re-establishing stability after interpersonal abuse, severe attachment disruption or neglect was a major theme throughout the training.
Increasing compassion for clients, colleagues, and helpers was another theme that O’Neill put forward in the training and workshops.