Webinar presenter Alejandro Palacios answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Trauma Informed Practice 101. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: How can different people experience the exact same situation? And one person be traumatized by it while another person may not feel as traumatized by the situation?
Alejandro Palacios: It is based on each individual life’s experiences, and it relates a lot to the concept of resilience and different individuals’ capabilities and capacities to adapt to traumatic situations. Because there are individuals who may have very similar experiences, and that’s the question mentioned. Why is one individual traumatized? And the other person may not be or may not suffer as much. And that is based on that individual’s capacity to adapt to a traumatic and or adverse experience. We all have different levels of resiliency and adaptability. So, there’s no cookie-cutter approach for this. It’s so individual to how different individuals react to the similar situation.
Audience Question: So, to piggyback on some of those things, some of us have heard of fight, flight, and freeze. But fawn seemed to be a new term for a few of the audience members. Is this new, or we just missed it?
Alejandro Palacios: No. It is a new concept that has been talked about for the past three years. I actually learned this concept while training for the Victim Offender Dialog Program, with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In which the fawn response to a traumatic situation is basically avoiding conflict. And basically saying, as an example, “Yes”, that talking about a domestic violence situation that an abuser may want the victim to do. To avoid conflict as a traumatic reaction, you become sort of like a ‘yes person’. What you say, when you request, I’m going to do, as a means of not getting into conflict and it’s a very normal, traumatic reaction.
Audience Question: What are some examples of self-comfort as opposed to self-care? Can you do some juxtaposition between the two?
Alejandro Palacios: Of course, self-care can be having a cup or two of wine with dinner. Self-comfort having is will be having a bottle.
Host: I like that analogy. That makes it really obvious, doesn’t it?
Alejandro Palacios: Because it’s part of my self-care. You can decompress while having a cup of wine at dinner. That’s okay if it goes into self-comfort. If you’re starting to have 1 or 2 bottles. Another example can be gambling. You can do gambling as a means of self-care occasionally. That’s okay. But if you start doing daily or is in a way that’s affecting your work, your familial relationships, and your budget, then it becomes self-comfort.
Audience Question: So, as a training manager, what should I make sure is included in our trauma-informed practices training to ensure our people are getting all of the training they need?
Alejandro Palacios: I will start by, having the leadership be trained, like trauma-informed supervision training. For leaders and individuals in supervision positions to understand trauma-informed from the perspective of how the individuals that they supervise can also be affected by trauma themselves.
Audience Question: How many trauma victims suffer from PTSD?
Alejandro Palacios: That’s a great question. I do not have a specific statistic on that at this point in time and can definitely research that. However, I can say based on my experience, as an advocate with victims of domestic violence, and also with children who have experienced abuse, is that, unfortunately, most victims of trauma develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. I’m going to research that. I don’t have like a statistic from the CDC per se, but I’m sure it’s out there. What I can say, without a doubt, and just based on my experience as an advocate and a crisis counselor, is that most people, unfortunately, end up developing symptoms of PTSD. And also, adding to that, the fact that most PTSD has not been diagnosed because, for some people in our country and our communities to have access to mental health care. It’s a luxury. People cannot afford mental health support and services. Therefore, it may highly go undiagnosed, but the symptoms are there for sure.
Audience Question: How do we get around potentially re-traumatizing an individual if funding is not given to the services that the survivor initially used? So, an example that he used was such as service or support programs for military members, but the programming got cut or the program was not refunded. So, how do we avoid re-traumatizing them as they need to go through and find new services?
Alejandro Palacios: And that’s a great question and a very, very real example. I really appreciate that question, as do the others. And I will say, by starting to be upfront and honest with the people that we’re working with, we can confirm ahead of time that those services are no longer being provided. Letting them know. Being fully transparent and honest. However, also letting them know that we will do the very best of our abilities to find similar or appropriate services that they may need. That’s why it’s so important that ahead of having those conversations, we get ahold of agencies, and institutions that may replace those services or provide very similar services ahead of having those conversations. Because when those come up then we can say, “I know who to call. I know who may have an answer, I may not have that specific answer right now, but let’s call, let’s send an e-mail to this person.” Therefore, we can even do a warm handout to that agency, or to that other advocate. It’s easier said than done, for sure. But ahead of having those conversations, I think, when, once we become aware that a program didn’t get funded, start reaching out to your state coalitions against domestic sexual violence. If your state government has an office that focuses on sexual and domestic violence reach out to them, connecting with not only the agencies but with the individuals, that work on those agencies ahead. Establishing those bridges, if you will, to collaborate. Because it happens, that’s, that’s very real, and it, unfortunately, tends to happen more often than we talk about.
Audience Question: How can help others in the criminal justice system understand that victims may not remember every detail of a crime they’ve experienced or the precise order of something that happened when so often the knee-jerk reaction for years has been to assume that if the victim doesn’t remember or doesn’t get the order correct, that they must be lying. How do we do that fieldwork to help the rest of our practitioners and criminal justice understand this?
Alejandro Palacios: That’s a great question. And I would like to say that we should start by getting trained in the neurobiology of trauma. There are some great trainings out there. We even do training on the neurobiology of trauma, but there are some great, knowledgeable individuals throughout the country that lead the field, per se, in this. We need to get ourselves trained in understanding and educated on the neurobiology of trauma, and then share those resources and the knowledge with those individuals who are having a hard time understanding the Neurobiology of trauma and the trauma that the effects of trauma have specifically on the memory. And I always mentioned this example of how when law enforcement is involved, when an officer is involved in an officer-involved shooting, they give their testimony and recount what occurred. But then two weeks after per our best practices, they also give another statement that is because that fragmented memory with time starts to slowly piece back together what occurred. And I’m mentioning two weeks because that’s what I know, at least in my experience. But for victims and survivors, it can take months or years, and potential, even therapy, to fully remember the traumatic experience. So, we need to understand. And that’s directly tied to our knowledge of the neurobiology of trauma.
Audience Question: Even though staff may be trained in trauma-informed care, I still feel like there’s still a lot of judgment when victims use drugs or alcohol. What can be done to help staff be more empathetic to clients?
Alejandro Palacios: I can say, I would suggest training specifically on understanding different coping mechanisms beyond the trauma-informed framework training like we just had today. Something more in-depth, and also, possibly training on different biases that we may have. Because that’s something very real, we, all, as individuals, carry different biases, and we need to address those in order not to judge victims for their different coping mechanisms that got them to be able to survive.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Trauma Informed Practice 101.