One of the great delights in life for me is partnering with wise, effective, highly competent, and gracious leaders in the biblical counseling and soul-care world. Last Saturday was one of those exceptional experiences.
There were five of us presenting for an event that was geared to help every-day believers find encouragement to become more invested in ministering God’s Word to others – the troubled and the in trouble. The format was both in-person and virtual. Pretty good turn-out in both venues.
The last portion of our time together was a Q & A with the five of us as the panel. The questions asked were insightful and deep, not simply questions to be asking questions.
Something that has been rolling around in my thoughts and prayers that is also something our counseling team has been discussing more and more over the last year is the surge in interest in all things “Trauma.” There were several questions raised and insightful responses by the panel during our Q & A that day that centered on this in-the-spotlight-everywhere topic.
Ironically, our counseling team at Truth in Love Biblical Counseling has been discussing the importance of being “trauma -wise” versus being “trauma-informed” for over a year now. So much so that the writing project I will undertake in July is a book on this very subject.
What Does Being Trauma-wise vs. being Trauma -informed Look Like?
Think of it as being like the difference between being well-versed in and having a nuanced understanding of the implications of the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” by Frederick Douglass and a many-times-read familiarity with Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn.” While there are similarities in some of the underlying aspects of both stories, the dynamics are remarkably different.
In recent years, there has been a growing awareness in the world at large and, more specifically, within evangelical circles of the impact of trauma on individuals and families. Of even greater import to our discussion is the glut of theoretical yet less-than-practical knowledge that has been flooding the biblical counseling and soul-care world.
This has led to an ever-expanding focus on being “trauma-informed.” As a result, we are often asked, “Is your approach trauma-informed?” Or we hear, “I’m looking for trauma-informed counseling.”
Trauma-wise and trauma-informed are two terms often used interchangeably, but they have different implications.
Trauma-informed refers to having an awareness of the impact of trauma and how it can affect people’s lives. The main weakness is that it trains helpers to look for trauma-effects in every case.
Trauma-wise, on the other hand, refers to having the knowledge and skills to provide care that is responsive to the needs of people who have experienced trauma and that also wisely avoids many of the weaknesses of mere trauma-informed care. Its main strength is understanding that much of what gets blanketly called “trauma” may be better categorized as a crisis or even highly stressful yet not actually create trauma.
Trauma-informed is a broad approach to providing help and “services” in the social services and healthcare realms that recognizes the impact of trauma on individuals and seeks to provide mental health, healthcare, education, social work, community, and other safe, supportive, and helping services for the traumatized.
Being trauma-informed is an important starting point for everyone, and it is extremely helpful for people who serve in areas of ministry that are likely to encounter people who have experienced trauma.
Trauma-wise people move beyond being trauma-informed because they can recognize the signs of trauma and distinguish between trauma, crisis, and stress. The trauma-wise respond in supportive and helpful ways that guide people back to God and His remedy for what they have suffered, especially as this applies to trauma.
Trauma-wise helpers know how to create a safe and supportive environment for people who need to share their stories of trauma. They also know how to help trauma survivors reframe their thinking to be more theologically robust and in line with what Scripture teaches. They are adept at effectively walking alongside trauma experiencers as they heal and grow.
Being trauma-wise is even more specialized than being trauma-informed. Trauma-wise individuals have the knowledge and skills to provide care specifically tailored to the needs of people who have experienced trauma, especially relational trauma. They understand the impact of trauma on the brain and body, the mind and soul, and they know how to provide supportive and healing soul-care that is biblically solid and Christ-focused.
Trauma-informed care is an umbrella approach that is geared to take into account the reality that many people have experienced trauma across all aspects of their lives. It involves training staff on trauma-informed practices, creating trauma-safe environments, and providing trauma-specific services.
On the other hand, trauma-wise care is a more focused approach that emphasizes understanding and responding to the specific needs of people who have experienced trauma. It involves being aware of the signs of trauma, creating a safe space for people to share their experiences, and knowing how to provide people with or refer them to appropriate biblical soul-care.
Being trauma-informed and trauma-wise are important steps in creating a more compassionate and understanding environment in our churches and our communities at large. By learning about trauma and its impact, we can all become more supportive and helpful to the people in our lives who have experienced it. By being trained and equipped to be trauma-wise, we can be more effective agents of God’s healing truth and grace in the lives of the deeply traumatized.
If you are interested in learning more about authentic biblical soul-care and, more specifically, trauma-wise soul-care, visit our website.