What does “trauma-informed” mean and what does it look like at Cunningham?
Trauma-informed care (TIC) is an organizational structure and treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma and is based on the latest research in brain science and behavioral health.
One of the principles of being trauma informed is the knowledge and understanding of what has happened to a young person and/or family and its far-reaching impact on behavior, self-regulation, and emotional health.
Across many human services and organizations that interact with children, adults, and families, the concept of trauma-informed services is catching on.
At Cunningham, we often tell stories about our kids, the trauma they've endured, and their resiliency to heal, learn and grow. In March 2018, Oprah Winfrey and 60 Minutes reported on how trauma plays a role in childhood development and what new methods are being used to help kids who have experienced it. The story includes an interview with Dr. Bruce Perry, whose expertise Cunningham follows. It's a great way to further understand how our kids are experiencing healing and hope. As you will see, it's not about "what you did," but rather "what happened to you."
Trauma informed city and state groups are starting to pop up. Locally, CU Peace and Resiliency Champions is a collaboration of individuals and organizations, including Cunningham, dedicated to making Champaign-Urbana a trauma-informed community. A recent article in the News-Gazette, entitled Tracing Trauma, further illustrates how CU Peace and Resiliency Champions is working to educate our community.. Although the concept of TIC isn't new, especially among researchers, it has been gaining traction among lawmakers, community groups, and the general public.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente assessed associations between childhood trauma, stress, and maltreatment and health and well-being later in life. Almost two-thirds of the participants (both men and women) reported at least one childhood experience of physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or family dysfunction, and more than one of five reported three or more such experiences.
We have agreed that our Trauma-Informed model has three components:
1) Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency (ARC by Dr. Margaret Blaustein).
ARC is a comprehensive framework for intervention with complexly traumatized youth. The approach is grounded in attachment theory and early childhood development and addresses how a child’s entire system of care can become trauma informed to better support trauma focused therapy and provides a framework for both trauma-informed and trauma specific therapeutic intervention….and promotes resilience.
ARC includes a manual that offers extensive trauma-informed language with understandable definitions and explanations. It recognizes three primary targets (Attachment, Self-regulation, Competency) and a fourth (Trauma Experience Integration) which draws from skills addressed in the other three domains.
“Primary targets,” or building blocks, are identified for assessment and intervention. There are 10 core targets that are further broken into key sub-skills with strategies at the system, caregiver and child/youth level. This offers a very comprehensive framework which allows us to screen/review particular approaches, interventions and techniques through a trauma-informed lens.
2) Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS by Dr. Stuart Ablon)
CPS offers an evidence-informed approach to assist parents, teachers, and mental health providers identify children’s cognitive skill deficits that lead to challenging behaviors. It starts with the philosophy that ‘children will do well when they can’ and helps adults teach children flexibility, problem solving and emotion regulation skills.
3) Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT by Dr Bruce Perry)
NMT is a developmentally sensitive, neurobiology-informed approach to clinical problem solving. NMT is an evidence-based practice and not a specific therapeutic technique or intervention. It is an approach that integrates core principles of neurodevelopment and traumatology to aid in the selection and sequencing of therapeutic, educational, and enrichment activities that match the needs and strengths of the individual.
Each winter, Cunningham conducts Winter Workshops for our employees to provide continuing education and training. These opportunities are often offered to the public as well. Included in these workshops are speakers on a variety of pertinent topics as well as documentaries that address topics associated with trauma-informed care.
BRIEF OVERVIEW: More than two decades ago, two respected researchers, clinical physician Dr. Vincent Felitti and CDC epidemiologist Robert Anda, published the game-changing Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. It revealed a troubling but irrefutable phenomenon: the more traumatic experiences the respondents had as children (such as physical and emotional abuse and neglect), the more likely they were to develop health problems later in life—problems such as cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
BRIEF OVERVIEW: THE CHILD MAY NOT REMEMBER, BUT THE BODY REMEMBERS. Researchers have recently discovered a dangerous biological syndrome caused by abuse and neglect during childhood. As the new documentary Resilience reveals, toxic stress can trigger hormones that wreak havoc on the brains and bodies of children, putting them at a greater risk for disease, homelessness, prison time, and early death.
With many of the children and youth in our care at Cunningham, we've learned we must inquire to know. Our goal is to create a safe, nurturing environment where our kids can build on their strengths, develop new skills, and establish healthy relationships. Many things are likely to turn out better through HOPE.