Trauma-informed practice is a strength-based framework formed on the understanding and responsiveness of trauma. It enables trauma survivors to regain a sense of control and empowerment by emphasizing physical, emotional, and psychological safety. This discussion presents the influence of the concept of trauma-informed practice on my thoughts on working with children in crisis. The impact of trauma on the developing child will also be discussed alongside how the information will be incorporated into the future and present while working with children impacted by trauma.
The concept of trauma-informed practice influenced my thoughts while working with children impacted by trauma in several ways. To begin with, it is vital to enhance the child’s safety. Emotional, physical, and psychological safety is imperative in regaining the child’s sense of control over their psychological and emotional responses. Exposure to trauma affects the child’s emotional response to psychological threats, especially the threats related to the reminders of the traumatic experience.
One of the goals of trauma-focused therapy is to assist the child in regaining or reestablishing a balanced state between levels of the nervous system hyper-arousal and hypo-arousal, thus be able to respond to psychological threats related to the traumatic event reminders (Uhernik, 2017). An excellent example of trauma-focused therapy that empowers the trauma survivor physically and emotionally is dance/movement therapy.
A study by Bernstein (2019) shows that dance/movement therapy is a multifaceted approach meant for healing trauma’s physical and emotional impacts. The approach enhances emotional safety by titrating trauma recovery experiences in therapy. Understanding trauma-informed practice has helped me appreciate the importance of promoting safety while working with children exposed to trauma.
Furthermore, trauma-informed practice has helped me refocus on promoting resilience and decreasing the negative impact of trauma while working with children in crisis. Even though children are generally resilient and get over events faster than adults, exposure to trauma during a crisis can negatively affect their quality of life, and the impact can persist throughout their life (Miller et al.,2019).
Based on this understanding, I can now ensure that all my interventions when dealing with children in crisis promote resilience and reduce the negative impact of trauma by assuring them safety, encouraging their self-esteem, being patient with them, and empathically listening to them without blame. I will also include a trauma-informed assessment and treatment planning in all interventions.
Trauma impacts the developing child emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally. Exposure to trauma affects how the brain functions, its connections, and how it communicates with other parts of the body (Uhernik, 2017). These adverse effects also affect the child’s development in different aspects, given that the brain develops rapidly in the childhood stages. Effects of trauma, primarily when not addressed early enough, are carried on into adulthood and may affect the individual throughout their lifetime.
Exposure to chronic trauma during childhood significantly alters a child’s emotional development. The child finds difficulty identifying, expressing, and managing emotions. They often have limited language in terms of expressing different feelings and states. Additionally, the child may develop anger, anxiety, and depression due to the suppression of stress reactions. These effects may also develop into other psychiatric conditions and affect the child even in adulthood.
Trauma also affects the developing child behaviorally. The child exhibits undesirable behaviors such as deviancy and behavioral changes mainly due to problems with self-regulation and relating with others. As they grow up, they are likely to carry on the behavioral changes and develop other problematic behaviors such as substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors, eating disorders, aggressive behaviors, and other related self-destructive behaviors (Roche et al., 2019).
In addition, exposure to trauma impacts the developing child cognitively. Trauma is known to cause brain changes that usually result in cognitive impairment in varying degrees depending on the level of brain changes. These changes affect the child’s learning abilities. The changes also cause other aspects of learning, including social skills, self-esteem, and the ability to pay attention and maintain focus. It is worth noting that chronic stress and exposure to toxic stress may lead to permanent brain damage, thus limiting the developing child’s cognitive abilities. The effect of permanent brain damage is felt throughout the child’s life.
The information on trauma-informed practice and the impact of trauma on the developing child will significantly influence my work with children impacted by trauma. I will promote the child’s emotional, psychological, and physical safety to ensure that the child regains control over their emotional responses.
More so, maintaining a professional therapeutic relationship with the children will help me gain their trust and enhance better delivery of the therapy intervention. I will also actively strive to reduce the negative effects of trauma by working with the child’s parents/guardians to ensure holistic support for the child. Additionally, when carrying out assessments, I will look out for the various effects of trauma on the developing child, thus developing creative and integrative approaches for addressing trauma.
In conclusion, trauma-informed practice is a significant goal embedded at the heart of the mental health profession. All therapy interventions should be trauma-informed to ensure safety and empowerment for trauma survivors. Exposure to trauma impacts the developing child in various aspects, as described above. Therapists should consider these aspects when dealing with children in crises to ensure holistic and effective therapeutic interventions.
Bernstein, B. (2019). Empowerment-focused dance/movement therapy for trauma recovery. American Journal of Dance Therapy, 41(2), 193-213. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10465-019-09310-w
Miller, K. K., Brown, C. R., Shramko, M., & Svetaz, M. V. (2019). Applying trauma-informed practices to the care of refugee and immigrant youth: 10 clinical pearls. Children, 6(8), 94. https://doi.org/10.3390/children6080094
Roche, A. I., Kroska, E. B., Miller, M. L., Kroska, S. K., & O’Hara, M. W. (2019). Childhood trauma and problem behavior: Examining the mediating roles of experiential avoidance and mindfulness processes. Journal of American College Health: J of ACH, 67(1), 17–26. https://doi.org/10.1080/07448481.2018.1455689
Uhernik, Julie A. (2017). Using Neuroscience in Trauma Therapy, Creative and Compassionate Counseling. New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN: 9781138888128.