Getting Started with Trauma-Informed Workforce Development

What is Trauma-Informed Workforce Development?

 

Trauma-informed workforce development occurs when staff understand, recognize, and respond with supports that address the negative effects of psychological, emotional, and spiritual trauma. Trauma-Informed Services emphasizes that for client’s to take full advantage of skill development opportunities they need to trust the organization as a whole and the individual staff members providing direct services—they need to feel safe. 

 

Being trauma-informed is about understanding and attending to how the cognitive, psychological, and emotional effects of trauma can block an individual’s brain from developing the skills, attitudes, and habits that are associated with successful employment. One example of this is that for staff to provide trauma-informed services they need to develop an empathetic understanding of how traumatic stress can cause concentration difficulties, which can make it challenging to keep up in training programs. Staff also need to understand how traumatic stress can cause anxiety that is self-medicated with substances, and both the anxiety and substance abuse may appear as lack of motivation to show up to training opportunities and as a lethargic engagement in the job search process.

To ensure that job readiness and workforce development services are trauma-informed, all staff need to understand:

  1. How trauma affects people’s ability to organize and manage themselves to take advantage of life’s opportunities and cope with life’s challenges.

  2. Understand the practices that will help them process and cope with their traumatic experiences and enable them to gain employment

  3. Develop procedures for following-up with clients to help them identify and manage workplace stressors and triggers to facilitate job retention.

Two Starting Points

1. Naming The Problem For Yourself As A Workforce Development Professional

 

For too many adults living in economically marginalized communities, events capable of causing trauma are in almost every aspect of the environment in which they live. 

 

trauma-informed job readiness and workforce development is about understanding and attending to how the cognitive, psychological, emotional, and behavioral effects of trauma can impair an individual’s abilities to develop the skills, attitudes, and habits needed for successful employment. For example, for staff to provide trauma-informed services they need to develop an empathetic understanding of how traumatic stress can cause concentration difficulties, which can make it challenging to keep up in training programs. Staff also need to understand how traumatic stress can cause anxiety that is self-medicated with substances, and both the anxiety and substance abuse may appear as a lack of motivation to show up to training opportunities and as a lethargic engagement in the job search process. 


Staff needs to have a clear understanding of how traumatic experiences can  affect individual functioning 

2. Naming The Problem With And For Your Clients

 

We all tend to look away and avoid asking others about what may be happening when we see signs of mental illness or trauma. However, one of the most helpful things that can be done for clients is to carefully ask about and listen to what they say about their life experiences. This act of asking and listening can provide the critical insight needed to determine the true underlying barriers that may be preventing them from short- and long-term career success.

Trauma-informed services help clients see, name, and heal (through connecting them with qualified professionals) their inner injuries to increase the likelihood of workplace success. Change is initiated by helping clients to understand the lasting trauma caused by past or ongoing experiences and understand how unhealed trauma affects how they show up in the workplace. This is done by talking with clients about trauma and potential triggers, helping them access therapy and other counseling supports, and coaching their development of self-regulation skills to deal with overwhelming feelings when triggers arise.


To do this staff first need to understand how to destigmatize discussing trauma

Core Principles of Trauma-Informed Services

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Safety

Throughout the organization, clients and staff feel physically, psychologically, and emotionally safe

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Collaboration & Mutuality

Power differences - between staff and clients and among staff - are leveled to support shared decision-making

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Trustworthiness & Transparency

Decisions are made with transparency, and with the goal of building and maintaining trust

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Empowerment, Voice,  & Choice

Client and staff strengths are recognized, built on, and validated - this includes a belief in resilience and the ability to heal from trauma

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Peer Support

Individuals with shared experiences are integrated into the organization and viewed as integral to service delivery

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Cultural, Historical, & Gender Lens

Potential for stereotypes and biases are recognized and addressed in policies, protocols, and practices that are responsive to differences in client needs

What does it look like to provide trauma-informed Services?

  • Ask and listen to what clients say about what they have gone through

  • Directly and supportively talking with clients about trauma and potential triggers

  • Helping clients access therapy and other emotional supports

  • Helping clients develop emotional and behavioral self-regulation 

Assess Your Organization on Each Principle of Trauma-Informed Services

Completing the organizational self-assessment for trauma-informed care will help you and your colleagues identify opportunities for program and environmental change, assist in professional development planning, and inform needed organizational policy change.

 

When reviewing these questions remember that you are evaluating your organization/department, not your individual performance.

 

This self-assessment can be completed anonymously by individual members of the organization and then aggregated, or it can be completed collectively by discussing as a group and coming to an agreement on the rating for each element. If completed individually and then aggregated, it is helpful to discuss items where responses are extremely varied. Lack of consistency may be due to a lack of understanding about an item itself, a difference of perspective based on a person’s role in the agency, or a differences in understanding about policies, procedures, and daily practices. 

Safety

Staff have assessed and addressed aspects of the environment that may be re-traumatizing, and have developed strategies to make environment feel safe

The physical environment promotes a sense of safety, calming, neurobiological regulation, and de-escalation for clients and staff

The protocols for informing clients and families of rules, procedures, activities, and schedules include precautions that are mindful of the fact that people who are frightened or overwhelmed may have difficulty processing information

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Not Implemented Anywhere

Partially Implemented Throughout

Fully Implemented in Some Areas

Fully Implemented Throughout

There are mechanisms to recognize and address psychological safety concerns identified by clients and staff

Trustworthiness & Transparency

Communication protocols deliberately promote transparency and trust with clients, families, and staff

There are mechanisms to review policies and identify whether they are sensitive to the needs of trauma survivors

There are written policies and procedures that recognize the pervasiveness of trauma in the lives of clients and families and express a commitment to reducing re-traumatization and promoting well-being and recovery

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1

2

3

Not Implemented Anywhere

Partially Implemented Throughout

Fully Implemented in Some Areas

Fully Implemented Throughout

There are training policies that demonstrate a commitment to staff training on trauma-informed care as part of staff orientation and in-service training

Peer Support

There are staff well-being policies that attend to the impact of working with people who have experienced trauma

People with lived experience have the opportunity to provide feedback to the organization on quality improvement processes for better engagement and services

There are written policies and procedures for including clients and families who have experienced trauma and peer supports in meaningful roles in governance, policy-making, services, and evaluation

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3

Not Implemented Anywhere

Partially Implemented Throughout

Fully Implemented in Some Areas

Fully Implemented Throughout

There is a process for staff to recognize the value of and engage with peer supports to manage workplace stress

Collaboration and Mutuality

Communication protocols deliberately reduce the sense of power differentials among clients, families, and staff

Clients, families and community members have been asked for their definitions of physical, psychological, and emotional safety

There are pamphlets and programs that educate clients, families, and local community about traumatic stress and triggers

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3

Not Implemented Anywhere

Partially Implemented Throughout

Fully Implemented in Some Areas

Fully Implemented Throughout

Procedures for screening have been integrated into the client flow plan

Empowerment, Voice, and Choice

The leadership and governance structures demonstrate support for the voice and participation of clients and families who have trauma histories

Communication protocols deliberately reduce the sense of power differentials among clients, families, and staff

Communication protocols and client materials deliberately normalize traumatic stress responses among clients, families, and staff and contribute to feeling comforted and empowered

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Not Implemented Anywhere

Partially Implemented Throughout

Fully Implemented in Some Areas

Fully Implemented Throughout

Consumer rights are posted in places that are visible

Cultural, Historical, and Gender Lens

Leadership understands the developmental and cultural foundations behind the Why and What of Trauma-Informed

Training address the ways identity, culture, community, and oppression can affect a person’s experience of trauma, access to supports and resources, and opportunities for safety

Providers understand variation in developmental needs and can adjust care accordingly

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1

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Not Implemented Anywhere

Partially Implemented Throughout

Fully Implemented in Some Areas

Fully Implemented Throughout

Culture, gender, and other factors have been considered in the context of trauma screening

Adapted from SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach