Organizational Trauma

An awareness of how trauma impacts groups can help service organizations identify ways the organization has adapted, intentionally and unintentionally, to both the clientele they serve and the culture in which they operate. Trauma-informed models often focus on how individuals have adapted to adversity in their past, encouraging service providers to . . .

1. Understand all behavior as meaningful by recognizing the signs and symptoms of trauma.
2. Create an environment of safety, resisting re-traumatization.
3. Build mutual relationships of trust through which change can occur.
4. Provide services in a manner that creates dignity and sustainability.

Equally important in this process is how the organization and society influence the sustainability and dignity of the programs and staff. Countless times I have heard they responses to new policies, laws, or protocols. “They don’t understand.” “What are they thinking?” “They don’t care.” That is often a sign of a trauma-organized system. Persons at any level may feel unheard, discounted, helpless.

Leaders at every level typically want their agencies, their employees, their clients to be successful. Sometimes they have to make unpopular decisions to reduce risk, to meet regulations, to maintain financial sustainability, to stay abreast of best practice. Agencies who understand organizational trauma put in place practices that promote a healthy culture. Examples include:

1. Venues for open communication that seek input from all who are impacted by a decision with feedback loops regarding what decision was made and the rationale
2. Utilization of dissent and mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth
3. Regular assessment of emotional intelligence skills and practices
4. Opportunities to address loss and re-imagine the future

Dr. Sandra Bloom in developing the Sanctuary Model™ has done extensive research in organizational dynamics and how trauma affects groups. My agency has benefitted greatly in managing change and toxic stress by fully utilizing the practices. You can learn much more and find many resources by clicking here.

Written by Lesa Chandler, Cornerstones of Care

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