How to Incorporate Trauma-Informed Care into your Practice
Trauma-informed care is a buzzword in the health and wellness space, but what does it really mean? We talked with expert Alane Lucht, DC, MA, LADC, LPC LPC, to explain what trauma-informed care means. Read on for answers to common questions about this popular, and important subject.
Dr. Lucht is a chiropractor, massage therapist, and faculty member at NWHSU—where she is a subject-matter expert for the Trauma-Informed Integrative Care track of the Master of Health Science in Integrative Care. She also earned her master’s degree in clinical counseling and addiction studies and has extensive training in helping those with both shock and developmental trauma.
Dr. Lucht pursued her master’s degree because she quickly realized that the physical work she was doing as a massage therapist and chiropractor was connected to what was going on in her patients on a mental, emotional, and psychological level.
The idea behind the trauma-informed care curriculum is to create a space for practitioners of mental and physical health, as well as educators, yoga teachers, or others to gain a more well-rounded picture of health.
“The people I went to school with for clinical counseling wanted to know more about the physical side, and the people I went to chiropractic school with wanted to know more about the psychological part of trauma,” she explained. “So, I thought ‘what are the most important pieces that need to be brought together and answer those questions.’”
What is Trauma-Informed Care?
Trauma-informed care is about understanding the mind-body connection, and how psychological trauma can affect people, physically and mentally.
“Trauma-informed care is really about understanding and recognizing the pervasiveness of trauma, as well as what we can do as practitioners, providers, and administrators to understand how people have been affected by psychological trauma,” explained Dr. Lucht. “It’s really about recognizing that certain behavioral or health issues may have roots in psychological trauma experiences.”
Patients or clients may be conscious of these connections, or unconsciously presenting a certain way. It’s the practitioner’s job to observe and create a safe space.
“The whole idea behind understanding trauma is that it’s not the traumatic event,” Lucht said. “It’s what stays stuck in the person’s body. It affects their physiology. If that trauma has not been resolved, it’s going to affect them physically, mentally, and emotionally.”
What Causes Trauma?
Most of us recognize abuse as a cause of trauma. However, you don’t need to have experienced sexual or physical abuse to carry trauma in your body.
“We’re getting better at recognizing that neglect is actually the more pervasive form of trauma. It’s damaging because people think ‘I must be crazy, we had everything we needed,’” explained Dr. Lucht. “Abuse is what happened to us, and neglect is what got missed. The missed connection, misattunement, and failure to address emotional needs, for example.
“As a child we literally do not have the mental capacity to understand that mom and dad may be having a bad day. We believe we’ve done something wrong. It goes so much deeper and is very complex, but there is hope for healing.”
Trauma is not just an individual experience, and social psychology is an important part of the trauma-informed curriculum. Students explore the continued perpetuation of systemic traumas and intergenerational traumas: “How does that affect people?” asks Dr. Lucht. “What are some of the things we can do as providers and practitioners moving forward? How can we address and move through the traumas we may have experienced to be a better source of healing for others, especially those we treat clinically?”
How do you practice trauma-informed care?
There’s not one single way to practice trauma-informed care. It’s not a step-by-step system, or even a modality, but rather a way of approaching patient care. Learning how to be trauma-informed is a way of being, thinking, and treating. This is in addition to the treatments you perform or the recommendations you give.
For example, if a patient presents with tension in their upper back and their shoulders are drawn up to their ears, we need to ask, are their symptoms a result of a physical injury? Or could it be the patient subconsciously protecting themself? If it’s the latter, a series of treatments may help on a small scale, but they’ll likely come back with the same problem repeatedly if you’re only treating the physical symptoms.
“If you are a physical healthcare provider and you are aware and respectful of what’s happening with a person on a psychological level, people are more willing to continue with care,” Lucht explained. “They’re able to relax as they’re being worked on, which can begin the healing process physically, mentally, and emotionally.”
Another important part of being trauma-informed is staying in your scope of practice and knowing how to refer. It’s important to understand other modalities, and to know providers who work specifically with trauma. “We can access those practitioners for ourselves, or as sources of referral,” shared Dr. Lucht.
Incorporating a trauma-informed approach into your practice will help you better understand the whole picture of your patients’ health. If you want to learn more about trauma-informed care, check out the Master of Health Science in Integrative Care at NWHSU.