Why trauma is not an event but an experience

The understanding of trauma and the willingness to discuss the impact of trauma on individuals’ lives has improved significantly over recent decades. This has been supported by a growing body of clinical research into trauma and the introduction of new approaches in policy and practice within health and social care.

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Trauma-informed practice

An important aspect of developing society’s conversations around trauma is raising awareness and reducing the level of stigma around trauma that impacts individuals’ ability to cope. This is obviously a good thing, but it also presents challenges in terms of a general understanding of what trauma is.

The concept of trauma-informed practice aims to ensure that anyone working in the relevant sectors understands how trauma can affect individuals, can recognise signs of trauma, and can help prevent re-traumatisation. To this end, trauma informed training for staff working in health and social care sectors can be seen as fundamental. Training providers such as www.tidaltraining.co.uk/mental-health-training-courses/trauma-informed-practice-training offer useful practical approaches, while the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities has some useful information about trauma-informed practice on its website.

Trauma as an experience

Traumatic events can be considered the starting point for a long period of someone experiencing trauma. The initial event can lead to physical and psychological symptoms that endure for many years; however, it is important to recognise that it is the impact of the event on the person that leads to trauma rather than the event being intrinsically traumatic. In other words, some people may experience the same event or set of circumstances and it will not be traumatic for them. Trauma is an ongoing experience that is related to something in the past but lived in the present.

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Developmental trauma

Some people are affected by experiences in their upbringing that are not necessarily dramatic but are characterised by patterns of parenting that can have traumatic effects. This can include physically or emotionally absent parents, neglect, inconsistency, or abuse. The effects on these people’s subsequent relationships and overall well-being can be considered to be ongoing trauma.

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