The adoption of trauma-informed care into supportive housing was an innovation to improve the quality of care given to residents.
Trauma-Informed Care emphasizes the importance of providing physical, psychological and emotional safety for both consumers and providers, helping rebuild a sense of control and empowerment in survivors’ lives. Over the course of the past 30 years, this mental health modality has developed as a framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma, seeking not to pathologize behavior, but rather look at the root causes informing behavior. Trauma-informed care also recognizes that every survivor of trauma learns their own survival mechanisms, depending on resilience and risk factors in their lives. This approach is now an evidenced-based practice that has gained more momentum and buy-in over the course of the past 5 years. Trauma-informed care shifts the question from, “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” It values a person’s full story and paves the way for healing.
How does this framework fit into the supportive housing model?
CUCS’s Peggy Shorr’s 30 years in the field have magnified the importance of providing trauma survivors a sense of physical and psychological safety—values that guide the supportive housing movement. As Director of Evidence-Based Practices, Shorr knows that providers need to understand when to explore a tenant’s story and when not to delve into their trauma; recognize that certain spaces and behaviors may be unintentionally re-traumatizing for tenants; as well as know how to hold information a tenant shares without judgement, while validating their experiences. In supportive housing, providers learn to define various forms of trauma, understand trauma’s bio-psycho-social impacts on both the individual and the community, and practice empathy-building by learning to identify different behaviors of trauma response. Supportive housing provides three areas in healing from trauma: creating a sense of safety, allowing for mourning and processing, and taking steps towards re-integration into community, knowing that “being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health.”
How are service providers implementing trauma-informed care?
Supportive housing was founded on the tenets of harm reduction, centering services around the needs identified by tenants and “meeting them where they are at”. This approach recognizes common coping strategies, including drug and alcohol dependence as a learned coping mechanism, understanding that treating survival skills requires treatment of complex trauma. Commonly used trauma-informed practices include motivational interviewing and strength-based case management; clinical interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and narrative therapy; as well as implementation of grounding activities to counter post-traumatic stress symptoms such as meditation.