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Common TIPs values

Glass ball reflecting grass and sky

Written by Claire Ranit

So hopefully you found the newsletter from this month (January 2019) somewhat helpful in better understanding what is trauma informed practices (TIPs). Keep in mind when you’re out in the big wide world, or searching for information on the internet, that TIPs is more commonly referred to as trauma informed care, or TIC. 

The reason we use TIPs is based on feedback from different people in the Gorge community that the word “care” was a barrier to entry for some folks thinking about jumping in on the effort. For some, “care” implied an intervention or treatment, something that requires higher education or a specific degree, as opposed to something anyone can do. On the flip side, the word “practices” is much more easily accessible. It implies a couple of important things when thinking about being trauma informed:

  • It’s not something we do once and are done with, it’s something we do over and over and over again, just like any practice. 
  • We won’t always get it right, and that’s ok. The point is that we’re consistently trying to move in a healthier direction with how we treat people. 
  • Anyone can do it. Anyone can try a practice. 

Now while there are different definitions for being trauma informed, it all centers around a set of common values:

  • Safety
  • Transparency
  • Social responsibility
  • Collaboration and social learning
  • Shared power and empowerment
  • Growth and change or adaptation

When people think about safety they often think about physical safety, which is a very important thing to have. But some less common, and equally important parts of safety, include psychological, social, and emotional safety. Psychological safety sounds a bit complex, but it just means that people are safe with their own thoughts. If they make a mistake, they let themselves learn as opposed to putting themselves down. Social safety means being safe in a group. Knowing that people are accepted for who they are as individuals regardless of self-identity, beliefs, culture, heritage, or any other factors. This also means not gossiping and respecting people’s rights to privacy. Emotional safety means that people are able to practice emotional intelligence in healthy manner. This doesn’t mean practicing group therapy on a daily basis, it just means that individuals are able to know how and why they feel a certain way and manage those emotions. 

Transparency is a pretty big buzz word these days. In the realm of TIPs, transparency is practiced as open communication. Sometimes this means have awkward or uncomfortable conversations while maintaining respect and safety. If something isn’t working, then it needs to be discussed so it can be made better but it’s absolutely possible to have these kinds of conversations without blame shame or judgement. You can think about it as saying what you mean but not being mean when you say it. 

Social responsibility gets at the idea that we are responsible to each other but not for each other. I’m responsible to colleagues to show up on time for a meeting but I’m not responsible for making sure they show up on time. I’m responsible to my team for delivering projects on time but they are not responsible for making sure I hit my deadline. Now, this doesn’t mean we can’t support one another in our social responsibility but it does recognize healthy boundaries and that every individual is empowered to make choice and action. 

Collaboration and social learning means working together as groups to meet goals and learn through the process. Recognizing that different individuals bring different talents, knowledge, experience, and insight and making space for all to have the opportunity to speak up and contribute. It means recognizing that mistakes will be made along the way and that’s ok, it gives more opportunity to learn and adapt without blame, shame, or judgement. 

Shared power and empowerment mean that people are given the space to advocate for themselves, understand, speak up, take action, and be heard. It means committing to the idea that there is choice in challenges, even if we don’t like the choices. 

The idea of growth and change, or simply adapting, means that we know change is a constant. It means facing opportunities and challenges with the hope of coming out stronger on the other end. 

When you work to be more trauma informed, it means these principles start to inform the way you treat yourself and how you interact with others. This can happen at both the individual level and at the group, or systems, level. And its key, as you make efforts, to model, reflect, and teach TIPs, but not to preach or use it as a way to put someone done or point out a mistake. If you catch yourself saying to someone, “well that’s not very trauma informed,” think about how you might address that issue with a trauma informed response. My go to is usually something along the lines of, “I don’t know if I’m communicating well, I’m worried my intentions aren’t coming across in the way I’d hoped. Here’s what I’m trying to do. Can you help understand how that’s landing so I can better support this process?” or some adaptation of that idea.