Lionhearted: Trauma-Informed Together | Uplift Family Services

Volume 7 • Issue 3 • March 2022

What is Trauma-Informed?

Being trauma-informed (TI) applies to the entire workforce, not just those doing direct service. TI means seeing clients and colleagues through a lens of empathy and respect. It means having awareness and understanding of personal stress and resilience.

In the 1970s, mental health service providers developed a deeper appreciation of the impact of severe stress. A shift began from treating illness to treating people. Instead of “What’s wrong with you?” providers began asking, “What’s happened to you?”

Over time, TI grew to apply to entire organizations, which strive to apply six TI principles:

  1. Safety, both emotional and physical
  2. Trustworthiness and transparency
  3. Peer support
  4. Collaboration and mutuality
  5. Empowerment, voice and choice
  6. A progressive approach to cultural, historical and gender issues

Building on What We Believe

If the phrase “trauma-informed” is new to you, the ideas behind it surely are not. Uplift Family Services and Pacific Clinics have long emphasized respect, collaboration and a strength-based approach.

In 2017, our agency began building on this heritage. Trainings were held on stress, trauma, resilience and self-care. TI language was added to applicant interviews, onboarding, supervision and more. Physical spaces were made more welcoming. Lionhearted–named for the courage and love it takes to be TI–was published regularly to build TI knowledge, communicate the agency’s progress and speak to issues such as COVID-related stress and racial trauma. The Trauma-Informed Leadership Committee (TLC) has promoted workforce well-being, better workload management and agency-wide TI training.

While Uplift Family Services brings its TI experience to the journey ahead, our new agency calls for a fresh start from a shared place: the experience and values of both of our legacy agencies.

We must proceed thoughtfully. For one thing, the process of becoming TI must itself be trauma-informed. Also, each region, program and department has its own subculture, perspective and needs. Being TI must work for everyone.

Why TI? Why now?

A TI approach is good for direct service programs. But why make the entire agency trauma-informed? Because a TI work culture means a better place to work.

And the timing is good. Merging is a challenge. Taking this path together will strengthen the larger process of integrating the two agencies. Being TI is not so much a destination as a continuous process of growth. It is one way, as we like to say, to become better together.

For more information, check out SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach. For a more gut-level experience, watch the 4½ minute video Glasses of Empathy.

AUTHOR: MARK EDELSTEIN, MD