A Metaphoric Hard Hat: Taking Stock and Nurturing Self-Care in Trauma-Informed Ways (Session T)
Developing trauma-informed services is considered the best-practice approach for all human services. A philosophy of trauma informed care embodies a culture that understands the prevalence and impact of trauma and the complex paths to healing and recovery and specifically works to avoid retraumatizing both those who seek services and those who are providing the services. The literature is clear on the importance of protecting those who interact with traumatized individuals, families and communities from the potential negative effects of exposure to trauma-related material, often termed as secondary traumatic stress or vicarious trauma. Much of this literature has, however, focused on the clinical professional context and less so on how vicarious trauma is relevant to contexts in which non-clinical professionals including domestic violence shelter workers, investigators, administrative staff, teachers, victim services workers, animal welfare workers, to name but a few, can be impacted by exposure to trauma-related material.
Working with individuals, families and communities in any capacity is rewarding work for all types of human service providers. At the same time, supporting individuals in our various services can also generate depletion of internal resources in staff. There are costs to caring in our work environments, especially when bearing witness to trauma in the populations we serve. There can be physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual impacts to this work, which can put our world out of balance. As human service providers, we are very knowledgeable about self-care and healthy coping strategies as healing tools for those we support. Unfortunately, we do not always recognize the importance of taking care of ourselves until we are simply overwhelmed. This is why self-care is best viewed as a unique, proactive, daily practice that supports our well-being. The most important part of coping with the intensity of the work we do is to acknowledge its impact on mind, body and spirit. Understanding impacts of burn out, compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma and the importance of engaging in self-care strategies to promote compassion satisfaction and resilience are essential coping mechanisms for human services providers to develop and maintain. From a trauma-informed lens, taking stock and taking care helps us to do no harm to ourselves and to those we serve. Metaphorically speaking, should we be wearing hard hats and what would they look like in the human services professions?
The purpose of this keynote presentation is to introduce participants, from a broad range of backgrounds, to trauma-informed self-care and ways to increase resilience and mitigate the occupational hazards of bearing witness to others’ traumatic experiences.