Are you familiar with trauma-informed therapy? Have you considered exploring trauma-informed therapy for yourself or someone in your life? If you’ve heard the term “trauma-informed therapy” but aren’t quite sure what it means, you’ve come to the right place.
Trauma-informed therapy is based on the principles of trauma-informed care. If that sounds a bit redundant, don’t worry; we’re here to go into the specifics and explain it all so you have the tools you need to decide if this is something you could benefit from.
What are Trauma-Informed Therapists?
One of the common questions we get in our practice is, “How do trauma-informed therapists differ from regular therapists?” Some people wonder if all therapists are qualified to handle trauma and help their clients with traumatic experiences. The answer is not cut and dry. While a wide range of therapists could be useful and helpful for individuals looking to explore traumatic experiences in their lives, trauma-informed therapists take a highly specialized approach.
Trauma-informed therapists recognize that any trauma their clients have experienced in their lives has an impact on how they live in the present. Contrary to what some might think, trauma does not always have to be a catastrophic event (i.e., an assault, an explosion, etc.), although it can be. Trauma may also present as seemingly small, repeated events such as consistent invalidation or verbal abuse. Trauma-informed therapists view the ways clients show up in the present as adaptations they have developed as coping strategies. These could show up in various ways, such as behaviors or patterns that clients want to change; they are often the reason clients seek therapy, trauma-informed or not.
Is There a Definition of Trauma-Informed Therapy?
The DSM defines trauma (and, as a byproduct, trauma-informed care and trauma-informed therapy) quite specifically with regards to threat and/or violence. Every therapeutic organization has its own interpretation of what it means to be a trauma-informed therapist and practice trauma-informed care. Here at Kindred Therapy, we use a broader definition of trauma to include any experience that has overwhelmed a person’s ability to cope in the moment. This could include a variety of challenges that the individual has or is currently experiencing in their life.
What are the Principles of Trauma-Informed Care?
The six main principles of trauma-informed care that we apply at Kindred Therapy include:
Prioritizing safety in the therapeutic environment is a critical component of trauma-informed therapy in our practice. For us, safety means ensuring that whatever physical environment a client is coming to therapy in remains as safe as possible. From a practical standpoint, this could mean recognizing where a client feels safe having therapy (i.e., physical office space, room in a building, facing a door, facing away from a mirror, etc.). Equally important is where a therapist’s office is located and how the setup may impact those seeking treatment. Kindred Therapy also considers the virtual and interpersonal context when prioritizing safety. We ask our clients to be in a secure, private location at the time of telehealth sessions and we only use industry standard, secured video platforms. We also require that staff are trained in trauma-informed principles and committed to being antiracist, neurodiversity-affirming, and trans-affirming.
Trustworthiness and transparency are about being open with the therapeutic process and pulling back the curtain. Nothing should be a mystery. Transparency includes getting informed consent from a client and being clear about everyone’s objectives, both from the therapist as well as from the client. Clear lines of communication are crucial here. We practice process-oriented, relational therapy that considers the relationship between client and therapist as key to the healing process. Transparency also means taking accountability for when we have messed up. We are skilled in navigating ruptures with clients and owning up to any miscommunications that occur. We also strive to create an environment that encourages feedback from clients. First and foremost we are human, and we demonstrate that to build trust in our relationships with clients, colleagues, and the community.
All relationships are built on a foundation of strong collaboration; this includes the relationship between a client and their therapist. Approaching trauma-informed care from a place of collaboration positions the client as the expert in their own life and the therapist as a guide on the path throughout the therapeutic process.
Collaboration is also centered in our organizational culture.
Empowerment & Choice
This principle is based on the idea of recognizing that people have the capacity to heal. A trauma-informed therapist’s job at Kindred Therapy is to be empowering in a way that helps clients understand their choices, actions, and experiences. We aim to give clients as much choice as possible, while modeling our own boundaries. This may range from the type of therapy that is practiced, the frequency of sessions, and other factors.
Similarly, it is important to be cognizant of when systemic influences can have an effect on the client’s ability to receive care. For example, at the organizational level, certain policies could negatively impact a client and hinder their ability to benefit from trauma-informed therapy. Additionally, it is equally important to consider how factors like race, gender and neurotype may impact the therapeutic relationship between the therapist and the client and the client’s experience in the world.
Kindred Therapy prioritizes serving our queer, trans, neurodivergent, BIPOC clients by offering therapy with a therapist who shares some of the client’s identities. We believe that lived experience can be a powerful mechanism of support and growth when combined with evidence-based therapy practices.
Trauma-informed care does not only exist on the client-therapist level, but also in the structure of the organization. To that end, Kindred highly values and supports its staff through opportunities for peer support, individual and group supervision, and ongoing training.
We are also in the process of exploring ways we can further support the community with peer support opportunities, such as support groups for neurodivergent individuals. Comment and let us know if you are interested in a particular kind of group!
Cultural, historical and gender context
Trauma informed therapy is about viewing the client as an individual with past experiences that impact their present. Furthermore, this type of care is about affirming the ways in which people have survived rather than pathologizing them.
At Kindred Therapy, all of our therapists are trauma informed. We have additional training in trauma-focused therapy modalities like EMDR, IFS and CBT. Our work frames individuals’ experiences in the context of their lives and in the context of the larger socio-political climate. We consider how these systemic elements may inflict trauma or impact people in negative ways. Our goal is to work with clients to help them live each day feeling resourced, supported, and more empowered.
Learn more about trauma-informed therapy and see if it might be a good fit for you when you contact our care team at Kindred Therapy, LLC today.