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Sara McCullough

By Sara McCullough

Top Tips: Doing our P.A.R.T. to be Trauma-Informed

Mon, March 13, 2017

Mother and daughter doing arts and crafts

Which of the following is true?


  • A. The single greatest health issue today is Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
  • B. Today’s most unaddressed health problem is ACEs.
  • C. Healthy relationships can help heal the effects of trauma.
  • D. All of the above.

  • If you guessed D. – you’re right. The sad truth is that traumatic experiences from our formative childhood years can result in serious physical, mental and emotional consequences, and that’s why recognizing and validating those experiences is an important first step in helping children and adults living with trauma move toward healing.

    In Part 1 of our trauma-informed care mini-series, we explored how United Way is working to build a trauma-informed region. But the reality is, real change starts with each of us.

    Want to change lives? Here are our top-tips for doing your P.A.R.T., developed by United Way’s own Suzanne O’Connor:

    1. Prevent situations that lead to feelings of overwhelming fear or helplessness.
    2. Build a personal safety plan to create and maintain physically, emotionally and relationally safe environments – and encourage others to try it, too. Safety plans can be kept on note cards and can include reminders to take a walk, listen to music or meditate. Those positive reminders, affirmations or activities can help ground us in reality.
    3. Avoid triggering or exacerbating trauma-related issues.
    4. Avoid shame or fear-inducing messages, like “Do that one more time and you’ll be sorry!” or “There’s no good reason for this behavior.” Instead, identify responses or actions that could be rooted in traumatic experience.
    5. Respond appropriately and sensitively to help level the brain and body.
    6. Traumatic experiences can change how we feel and function, which is why it’s important to stop trying to “push through” a task or activity. If a friend, colleague or child displays signs of distress – like spontaneous deep breaths or slumping over – watch, listen and respond in trauma-sensitive ways.
    7. Incorporate Therapeutic strategies to promote self-regulation, recovery and healing.
    8. From drinking cold water to practicing yoga, daily interventions can help the mind and body self-regulate. Other examples include tracking changes in heart rate, breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxing.

    The most effective way to bridge the gap between trauma and healing is through a positive relationship. Caring for ourselves and others means providing a path to recovery – one child, one adult, one family at a time.

    Stay tuned for the final part of our trauma-informed care mini-series!