Effective Trauma Strategies



Trauma is the result of inconsistency in a person's life, especially on the part of people or systems that are supposed to be fair.

The most effective responses for healing trauma are consistent relationships and stable patterns of care built around offering unconditional dignity (no matter how YOU behave, I will seek your dignity). Authenticity is the currency of the traumatized, it is almost like people who have experienced trauma have a radar for duplicity.

It helps to understand that all trauma doesn't lead to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), some people build resilience to trauma, what current literature often calls, “Grit.”


The act of being traumatized can become a label and definition—a story that people who have experienced trauma use to identify themselves. It is often a story of being a victim. Constantly telling this story (to self or others), can lead to generalizations in the way a person sees himself or herself, the way they interpret failings and the way they interpret time.

For example, “This is a character deficit and will always lead to failure no matter what I do.”

This thinking leads a person to feeling hopeless. Helping such a person means helping them be more specific in the way they interpret the events of their life. For example, “I failed that test, not because I’m stupid, but because I didn’t study better. I can talk to the teacher, study better and improve on my next test.”


As a guide, you can’t change this person’s self-interpretation, only he or she can. We need to provide opportunities for the young person to identify and meet goals they set (scaffolding). The emphasis is not-so-much on feeling better as much as doing well.


In caring for people who have experienced trauma, we need to know that resilience is the result of being loved especially when you fail. This mindset keeps a person open amid risk helping her or him differentiate between being a failure and failing at a difficult task. The latter leads to resilience in life.

A resilient life is one in which a person can say, “I can experience unfairness or failure in the world and grow because of it.” Of course, it is not just being able to say that to others that matters, but being able to consistently say that to oneself is even more important. That type of resilience can't be given by others, only grown by self. It grows from the consistency of those around us and turns into a powerful forgiveness of self.


The Optimistic Child; A Proven Program to Safeguard Children Against Depression and Build Lifelong Resilience, Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph. D., © 1995 by Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph. D., Karen Reivich, M.A., Lisa Jaycox, Ph.D., and Jane Gillham, Ph.D., Houghton Mifflin

Grit; The Power of Passion and Perseverance, © 2016 by Angela Duckworth, Simon & Schuster


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