How does trauma impact the family?

A fact sheet from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

All families experience trauma differently. Some factors such as the children’s age or the family’s culture or ethnicity may influence how the family copes and recovers. After traumatic experiences, family members often show signs of resilience. For some families, however, the stress and burden cause them to feel alone, overwhelmed, and less able to maintain vital family functions. Research demonstrates that trauma impacts all levels of the family:

■ Families that “come together” after traumatic experiences can strengthen bonds and hasten recovery. Families dealing with high stress, limited resources, and multiple trauma exposures often find their coping resources depleted. Their efforts to plan or problem solve are not effective, resulting in ongoing crises and discord.

■ Children, adolescents, and adult family members can experience mild, moderate, or severe posttraumatic stress symptoms. After traumatic exposure, some people grow stronger and develop a new appreciation for life. Others may struggle with continuing trauma-related problems that disrupt functioning in many areas of their lives.

■ Extended family relationships can offer sustaining resources in the form of family rituals and traditions, emotional support, and care giving. Some families who have had significant trauma across generations may experience current problems in functioning, and they risk transmitting the effects of trauma to the next generation.

■ Parent-child relationships have a central role in parents’ and children’s adjustment after trauma exposure. Protective, nurturing, and effective parental responses are positively associated with reduced symptoms in children. At the same time, parental stress, isolation, and burden can make parents less emotionally available to their children and less able to help them recover from trauma.

■ Adult intimate relationships can be a source of strength in coping with a traumatic experience. However, many intimate partners struggle with communication and have difficulty expressing emotion or maintaining intimacy, which make them less available to each other and increases the risk of separation, conflict, or interpersonal violence.

■ Sibling relationships that are close and supportive can offer a buffer against the negative effect of trauma, but siblings who feel disconnected or unprotected can have high conflict. Siblings not directly exposed to trauma can suffer secondary or vicarious traumatic stress; these symptoms mirror posttraumatic stress and interfere with functioning at home or school.

Download the complete fact sheet at http://TraumaToolbox.com and learn more practical tools on how to have a trauma-informed home. Contact Ron Huxley today to set up a therapy session or organize a seminar for your agency or event at rehuxley@gmail.com / 805-709-2023. You can click on the schedule a session link now on the home page if you live in the San Luis Obispo, Ca. or Santa Barbara, Ca. area.

The “R’s” of Trauma-Informed Care

Trauma affects all levels of society, including the home, school, religious institutions, social service organizations, public and private business, the arts and all areas of culture. A major movement has been occurring, throughout the nation, to change our perspective on trauma-informed approaches. The goal of this movement is to increase sensitivity in client care and prevent re-traumatization.

In order to meet this goal, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has created 4 R’s to guide the individual practitioner and society. These R’s include:

1. Realizing the widespread impact of trauma and understand the potential paths of recovery.

2. Recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved in the system.

3. Respond by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices.

4. and seeks actively to Resist Re-traumatization.

This guidance has resulted in paradoxical shifts that promote Resiliency and Regulation to promote positive Recovery. These “R’s” are essential to the practice of social work and mental health.

As the ideas and practices spread through society, we have to explore lesser recognized R’s of trauma-informed care, including Respect and Relationship. These two R’s are elements of success in creating a trauma-informed (cultural of) care.

There is a Zen saying:

If there is light in the soul,
There is beauty in the person,
If there is beauty in the person,
There will be harmony in the house,
If there is harmony in the house,
There will be order in the nation,
If there is order in the nation,
There will be peace in the world.

Respect starts with the individual – has to start with the individual – and then slowly moves through-out society. It starts with the parent in the home, the social worker in the field, the rabbi in the synagogue, the teacher in the physical education program, the supervisor in the organization. This light sparks from respecting oneself and then it then gets paid forward to others around them. It brings gratitude for beauty in the person and harmony in the “house”. It sustains families and transforms organizations and the world.

Respect is defined as the admiration of someone’s ability, qualities or achievements. It creates an atmosphere that promotes safety for the trauma survivor.

“Trauma, by definition, is unbearable and intolerable … Nobody wants to remember trauma. In that regard society is no different from the victims themselves. We all want to live in a world that is safe, manageable, and predictable, and victims remind us that this is not always the case. In order to understand trauma, we have to overcome our natural reluctance to confront that reality and cultivate the courage to listen to the testimonies of survivors.”

— Van Der Kolk, 2014
The question most often asked is how to put these “R’s” into daily practice? How do you make them a Reality?
According to SAMHSA’s report on Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Services, these R’s involve the…  
  • Recruiting, hiring, and retaining trauma-informed staff.
  • Training behavioral health service providers on the principles of, and evidence-based and emerging best practices relevant to, TIC.
  • Developing and promoting a set of counselor competencies specific to TIC.
  • Delineating the responsibilities of counselors and addressing ethical considerations specifically relevant to promoting TIC.
  • Providing trauma-informed clinical supervision.
  • Committing to prevention and treatment of secondary trauma of behavioral health professionals within the organization.
A lack of safety often looks like mistrust, a common problem for survivors. Trauma impacts the whole person. I manifest in our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual self. Symptoms of trauma often come with emotional numbness and a desire to isolate from others. It results in a lack of interest in social connections and impairs parenting, marriages, and working relationships. It can also impair clients and patients desire to seek the services they need because they don’t feel safe. 

All of this must be held in the context of a Relationship. The relationship is the healing factor behind it all. Without relationship, there is no family, no organization, no church, no society. In the science of resiliency, the relationship is how we tip the scale from negative to positive outcomes. One healing relationship in a chaos of trauma can provide enough emotional strength for a child or adult to survive.

Reflect on the “R’s” of Trauma-Informed Care:

1. How has your organization utilized the 4 R’s of Recognize, Realize, Respond, and Resist Retraumatization?

2. What can you do to start or improve on any efforts already done using these 4 R’s?

3. Can you define the concepts of Regulation, Resiliency, and Recovery? Write these definitions on an index card and consider them each time you interact with a co-worker, friend, or client.

4. How have the ideas of Respect and Relationship impacted you personally and/or how have you used these two powerful R’s to move others to more positive outcomes?

~> Need training or consultation on how to implement Trauma-Informed Care into your church, school, or business? Let Ron Huxley help you train your staff or community. Email him today at rehuxley@gmail.com or call 805-709-2023.