Trauma-informed practice is IN THE NEWS: Some local voices weigh-in

The impact of trauma on health may not be new to public health insiders, but we’ve noticed the approach is gaining traction in the news nationally.

For example, this story features Dr. Nadine Burke Harris who was recently appointed California’s surgeon general. She a pioneer in looking at how adverse childhood experiences can lead to lifelong health and mental health challenges. Her TED talk, “The Deepest Well,” has been viewed nearly 5 million times online.

And, stories like this one have highlighted findings from a 2018 study published in JAMA Pediatrics that captures a more recent snapshot of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in the United States.

Locally, you don’t have to look far to see examples of how a trauma-informed approach is influencing public health and many other fields. This week, we’ve shared some key things to know about trauma informed practice and highlighted examples of efforts that build resilience such as Community Health Boards and innovative approaches taking place in schools. P

Local insights: For today’s blog, we reached out to a few of our partners who are at the forefront of trauma-informed and resiliency-building work to get their reflections. How are they seeing these concepts take shape in their practice?

Seema Mhatre is a social worker at Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic

For the health care provider, it may feel like a shift from the role of expert to helper, but it seems to be a necessary shift.

“At Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic we work to promote healthy relationships between parents and their children.  We know that many families in our communities live with a certain degree of stress and have experienced trauma at home, in their communities, and/or systemically.  Our prevention efforts focus on families with very young children, through which we hope to create a space for healing within adults in the family. 

When we talk with parents about their parenting role; we emphasize their capacity to be nurturing, and to provide acceptance and warmth.  We want parents to provide guidance while fostering independence in their children.  It is this interconnectedness between parents and children that promotes healing and wellness.   These are the same qualities we, as health care providers, can offer to families we serve.  For the health care provider, it may feel like a shift from the role of expert or helper, but it seems to be a necessary shift.”

Courtney Chandler is a Restorative Practices Learning Facilitator for Glover Empower Mentoring Program

The Glover Empower Mentoring Program (GEM) is partnering with Meeker Middle School to foster positive school environments for young people. Through the program, students have facilitated discussions that focus on positive relationship building as well as a space to have honest and open conversations to help inspire youth to overcome challenges.  One teacher at Meeker had this reflection after participating in these sessions:


The class discussions helped me be more reflective about my students. The conversations made me think about why some of my students struggle intermittently and work on ways to strengthen communication.

More from the Meeker teacher: “I went into observing this program in my class with a general idea of the goals and curriculum, but didn’t really have any idea what my role would be.  I was reluctant to join in the discussions because I didn’t want students to defer to an adult’s voice.  This may have been a mistake, because I think the students’ perception was that I was there to keep an eye on them. Also, I had several of these kids as 7th graders and their expectation was that I was a disciplinarian. Over the course of the quarter, Courtney included me more and more in the group’s activities and I think that was a good decision.  I also refrained from focusing too much on asking kids to change their behavior. The GEM class discussions helped me be more reflective about my students.  Even though I didn’t have all of them in my classes, the conversations made me think about why some of my students struggle intermittently and work on ways to strengthen communication.”

Karen Wells is a Nutrition Assistant, providing nutrition and other support through the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program at Columbia Health Center

We ask ourselves, do we have more of an intentional concern for what has and is occurring in the lives of those we serve?

“Trauma Informed Care has taken a journey in search for answers – one that is not so new, but continues to look at how trauma affects us as human beings. It is absolutely amazing how trauma informed care has evolved in such a way that as a community, we are more engaged and embracing of people that have experienced adverse trauma in one aspect or another.

It seems as if a seed has been planted in the culture of Public Health and it has gained momentum with its growth. We ask ourselves, do we have more of an intentional concern for what has and is occurring in the lives of those we serve? I know if we continue to search, grow, combine efforts and resources, and stay open to change then just maybe the balm of Gilead (a high-quality ointment with healing properties) will help to transform adversity and trauma into healing and resilience through the efforts of Trauma Informed Care.”

Daniel Torres is Executive Director of the Essentials for Childhood (EFC) initiative at the Washington State Department of Health. 

It is inspiring to see trauma informed approaches take root in an increasingly broad range of service providers, from public school to private hospitals. I have seen a shift to focusing on support and healing as opposed to fixing deficits.

“Essentials for Childhood (EFC) is a public private partnership representing over 30 organizations committed to increasing Kindergarten readiness, improving child health, and mitigating and eliminating trauma. 

Trauma-informed approaches, resilience and healing have been priorities of many of our partners. Washington state is fortunate to have a number of amazing cross sector efforts at the local level committed to making a positive impact in this area. 

At EFC, our role has been to provide an opportunity for those local leaders to come together and learn from each other in terms of successes, challenges, and opportunities to make lasting change in the future. It is inspiring to see trauma informed approaches take root in an increasingly broad range of service providers, from public schools to private hospitals. I have seen a shift to focusing on support and healing as opposed to fixing deficits.   

We will never solve societal challenges unless we can support multi-sector partnerships with shared goals and a deep passion for the work. EFC is committed to finding ways to support those on the ground that are the backbone of this movement.”

We at Public Health appreciate all of your insights and you work to support resilience and strength in our community!

Updated April 4, 2019

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