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What is a Trauma-Informed Organisation?

When we refer to ‘trauma’ often our minds go straight to what we refer to as ‘Big T’s’; a significant traumatic event in an individual’s life such as a near-death experience, physical or emotional abuse or other deeply distressing or disturbing experience which leaves a lasting impact on an individuals day to day functioning. It’s important and valuable to hold an understanding and appreciation of trauma in this form, acknowledging the impact that ‘Big T’ traumas can have, and facilitating an environment which supports individuals with such experiences to function well at work. However, it is important to expand our understanding of ‘trauma’ and the impact of this to consider the role of ‘small t’s’ on our emotional wellbeing. ‘Small t’s’ refer to the stressors and demands we experience on a day-to-day basis such as work pressure, financial demands, relationship difficulties and other aspects of our often busy, full lives which lead to feelings of stress, anxiety and burnout. When we understand the scope and range of trauma, we can appreciate the universal nature of this and the role that our modern world plays in keeping us vulnerable to such experiences. What is important to know when we consider the motivation for maintaining a trauma-informed environment is that the way in which our brains function; our emotions, attention, functioning and capabilities to perform at our best are significantly impaired when we are busy responding to a consistent onslaught of ‘small t’s’. When we are exposed to consistent triggers, we begin to function within a ‘threat-focused mindset’, and this mindset is not the one from which we thrive, perform at our best and feel safe, calm and well. You can read more about this in our blog ‘The Tricky Brain’.

So how does an organisation become ‘trauma-informed’? A trauma-informed environment acknowledges that we all just find ourselves here, in the flow of life, doing the best we can with our complex and unique human brains. It recognises that we are vulnerable to experiencing small t’s and big T’s in many areas of life and that suffering is a universal human experience. In creating a trauma-informed environment, it is important not only to understand the relevance of trauma in all of our lives, but also to understand the impact of trauma on our body and brain. Understanding how we function when we approach our experiences from a traumatised mindset and the way in which this impacts our thoughts, emotions, behaviours and capabilities, opens up the motivation to soothe and calm our traumatised ‘threat-focused’ mind. In response to this knowledge, a trauma-informed organisation creates an environment in which staff wellbeing is meaningfully and intentionally integrated, modelled, embodied, infused and hardwired into the very fabric, personality, culture and feeling of an organisation. This in turn supports the staff to step out of a threat-focused, traumatised mindset and into one which cultivates compassion and wellbeing. From this mindset, individuals are able to think creatively, work productively and flourish.

Trauma Informed Organisation