The Value of Trauma-Informed Language

I don’t know if this is your experience but lately it seems that every profession has its own terminology. Sometimes the acronyms are completely confusing. Even when reading professional journals they seem to have a host of different abbreviations and expressions that are exclusively contextual to their respective field of endeavor. Also, social media has its own language that changes regularly. Staying current on the updated language can be a full-time job.

In our history, Lakeside focused some of its trauma trainings to certain regions. We noticed that the more human service professionals we trained the more likely it was that they would meet in the community and share some of our trauma language in their professions. Many of these professionals were helping families who were struggling with the impact of trauma or other adversities and were able to share common language around these situations. These realizations immediately helped them understand the nature of what was going on with the families they were serving.

It may seem a bit simplistic but trauma-informed language is significant for anyone who deals with human relationships. Just the common trauma-informed phrase “it’s not what’s wrong with you but what happened to you” has become a huge paradigm shift in our approach to mental health problems throughout the entire nation. By its nature it references the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) research that has traced so many of our health and mental health problems to traumatic events that are experienced in childhood.

Trauma-informed language gives us a whole new understanding of how the brain works. The current neuroscience has shed light on how the brain operates when under the stress of adversity. We use terms like dysregulation, re-enactment, dissociation, hyper-vigilance, triggers, stress responses and other like terms to give definition to the operations of the brain that is designed to protect us.

We understand brain development in children and adults and what interferes with it. We are grasping what arrested development means and how the brain is wired at an early age. All of this research continues to be in discovery but it helps us to understand so much about what individuals who have been impacted by trauma are experiencing neurologically.

Further, since we have terms and definitions for this kind of traumatic impact, we can now develop therapeutic approaches to help kids and adults who have manifested these conditions in their lives and current behavior. We know how important our five senses are to help regulate individuals. We can help identify what is going on in their neurology which leads to therapeutic approaches to help them cope in new ways. Rather than the traditional mental health labels which have been treated by pharmaceutical drugs we now can utilize interventions that have impact to specific areas of the brain, helping it to regulate, and introduce relevant therapies that can help our clients to cope with their trauma.

It is why Lakeside is attempting to provide comprehensive trauma training to the professionals who work with those who have faced traumatic adversity. We need to have the same language across our systems of care, our justice systems, drug and alcohol facilities, our healthcare professionals, social workers, educational professionals and so many more. If we can share the language of being trauma-informed, we can more accurately describe the specific needs of those in our care and offer better options for their treatment and support. The value of trauma-informed language can change the landscape of assessment and interventions to help those whose neurology has been compromised by the adversity they have faced. This is the challenge as well as the new discovery that will offer our society better treatment and new potentials for healing and hope.

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