What does “Trauma Informed” mean?

“Trauma Informed Response and Care”

Trauma Informed Response and Care is the current standard of practice in order to provide quality, compassion based services.  However,  running an agency or organization that is actually and regularly “Trauma Informed” is very difficult because there are so many different aspects of the practice.  One of the key elements to being “Trauma Informed”, is to understand the bodies biological and neurological response to trauma.

On Interviews:
Here at SHIFT LLC,  we focus on trauma informed interview methodology, specifically FETI,  because we believe having access to “Justice and Voice” are essential to the healing process after a traumatic experience:

We believe:
Trauma informed interviews are not simply

  • The use of open-ended questions
  • Being nice and/or simply building rapport

Trauma informed interviews include:

  • Accurate understanding the neuroscience of trauma and memory
  • Understanding the impact of trauma on decision-making, behavior and consequence
  • Understand the impact of tonic immobility, collapsed immobility, dissociation and other common impacts of trauma
  • Applying the principles of neuroscience of trauma and memory in the intervention and interview processes
  • Ensuring the interview methodology does not conflict or contradict with the principles of neuroscience and memory
  • The focus of a trauma-informed interview must be the demonstration of genuine empathy along with a focus of obtaining sensory information, impact, implicit/explicit memories, central details vice peripheral details
  • A focus on brain-based cues such as “tell me more” and use of sensory questions
  • Should also collect information about context of the experience – before, during and afterward
  • Should collect information about impact of the experience
  • Must be conducted in a “soft interview room” or neutral location wherein the participant feels physically and emotionally safe
  • Must be recorded to the greatest extent possible to accurately record and properly document psychophysiological evidence
  • Start be taking each and every report of crime serious including sexual assault and rape.  For example, there has been a well-established practice in the investigation of unattended deaths.   Investigators are instructed to treat all unattended deaths as a homicide until proven otherwise.   This does not make the investigators bias, it just makes them thorough by examining the most serious possibility first to ensure a detailed and complete investigation. We ask for the same serious attitude for each and every report of sexual assault or rape as well.

 Trauma Informed Interviews avoid:

  • Focusing on a narrative or sequence of events
  • Asking “Who/What/Where/When/Why/How” questions
  • Telling the person “it is not their fault”
  • Telling the person “tell the truth”
  • Building rapport as it may come off as “small talk” or “unauthentic”
  • Conducting the interview in a interrogation room- we advocate soft rooms
  • Re-traumatizing the victim through actions, improper questions, victim blaming, slut shaming or demeanor
  • Judging victim behaviors or actions
  • Focusing primarily on peripheral details and the primary use of who, what, where, why, when and how type questions
  • In-depth interviews following acute trauma – we advocate waiting until after 1-2 sleep cycles.

SHIFT LLC currently only endorses Certified FETI as a “trauma Informed” interview methodology.   We are working diligently to review research on other methodologies and practices to continue to improve our collective response to individuals who have experienced high stress and trauma.

The vast majority of current interview techniques and protocols pre-date our current understanding of neuroscience, the impact of high stress and traumas effect on memory.

Most interview techniques and protocols require a narrative in a sequential or logical way. There is also a heavy reliance on “Who”, “What”, “When”, “Where” type questions.  We also believe there is a misunderstanding by many professionals that “being nice” or by having a focus primarily on open-ended questions will make the response “trauma informed”.  Being nice and utilization of open-ended questions are a good start but do not fully qualify the approach as trauma informed.

We are very interested in doing the right thing and using methodologies that are best for professionals responding to people who have experienced high stress and trauma. If you have an interview technique or protocol that is both rooted in neuroscience and trauma informed – we would like to collaborate with you to ensure we are all using the most cutting edge promising best practices.  If interested, please email myrastrand@russellstrand.com

Beyond the Interview:
Trauma Informed Response and Care is more than being nice and open ended questions.

WE are working hard in this area-
STAY TUNED for some changes on this page!

According to SAMHSA’s  (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)  concept of a trauma-informed approach, “A program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed:

  1. Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery;
  2. Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system;
  3. Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; and
  4. Seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.”

A trauma-informed approach can be implemented in any type of service setting or organization and is distinct from trauma-specific interventions or treatments that are designed specifically to address the consequences of trauma and to facilitate healing.

SAMHSA’s Six Key Principles of a Trauma-Informed Approach
A trauma-informed approach reflects adherence to six key principles rather than a prescribed set of practices or procedures. These principles may be generalizable across multiple types of settings, although terminology and application may be setting- or sector-specific:

  1. Safety
  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency
  3. Peer support
  4. Collaboration and mutuality
  5. Empowerment, voice and choice
  6. Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues                   READ MORE…

Here is a tool to get you started-  that said:  We are working on bringing all of the TIC tools together and updating.   Even this tools says to use “motivational interviewing”,  we do not believe motivational interviewing is trauma informed because it is not rooted in the neuroscience.

Tool to get you started:  Is your agency Trauma Informed? Click HERE