Implementing Trauma-Informed Care in Your Behavioral Health Practice

It’s not an understatement to say that many of us have experienced trauma over the last few years as we’ve been forced to deal with the fallout from the pandemic, geopolitical conflicts, social unrest, and a dire economic outlook. Unfortunately, the youngest among us have not been immune to the trauma either.

Since 2020, more than 1.7 billion students have faced school closures, and many lost family members and friends due to COVID-19. Across the world, young people were at increased risk for other traumatic experiences like family violence, social isolation, neglect, and financial insecurity.

As a result, many behavioral health practices are adopting a trauma-informed model of care to help their patients process, heal, and improve outcomes for their mental health and physical well-being. This care model specifically seeks to address the physical and psychological fallout from a traumatic event experienced by children that can linger well into their adult life, especially if it occurs at a young age.

To help us understand the basics of trauma-informed care, Jennifer McCarthy, EdD, and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor visited our podcast to share her knowledge on the subject. Her valuable insights helped to simplify this complex topic and introduce some ways that an EHR can help healthcare providers prioritize this model of care.

What is Trauma-Informed Care?

Trauma-informed care is a model of care that assumes that most humans have been through at least one traumatic experience. Traditionally, most models of care have not assumed this.

By making this assumption, therapists and behavioral health providers can approach patients in a way that establishes trust, offers support, and makes them feel more comfortable. Creating a more trusting and caring relationship between provider and patient makes it easier to address their trauma and deal with the physical, psychological, and emotional consequences.

Defining Trauma in a Trauma-Informed Care Model

Although many people exposed to trauma demonstrate few or no lingering symptoms, individuals who have experienced repeated, chronic, or multiple traumas are more likely to exhibit pronounced symptoms and consequences, including substance use, mental illness, and other physical health problems.

According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the best way to identify patients with trauma is to use the three “E’s”:

  • Events: How were they exposed to trauma?
  • Experience: How they interpret their lived experience of the situation.
  • Effect: How are they coping with this experience, and how has it affected their life?

In trauma-informed care, providers are trained to ask “what happened to you?” instead of questions like “what is wrong?” which focuses on the symptoms rather than the inciting incident. By asking these holistic questions and seeking to understand the three “E’s” of each patient’s trauma, clinicians can create a better picture of their patient’s history and needs.

How an EHR Helps Healthcare Providers Run a Trauma-Informed Practice

An EHR is a valuable tool to utilize as providers seek to transition from traditional models of care to one more informed by trauma. An EHR like NextStep helps mental and behavioral healthcare providers create the templates and workflows they need to better serve their clients. By embedding forms like the Life Events Checklist Version 5 and the Adverse Childhood Experiences Questionnaire into the EHR, they can ensure every patient is screened for trauma in a way that is both comprehensive and compassionate.

Creating a practice focused on client success requires a thorough understanding of trauma. If your organization needs it, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Many resources are available that can help create trauma-informed care practices that will benefit not only patients but clinical staff as well.

If you want to learn more about trauma-informed care from our conversation with Jennifer McCarthy, take a listen to the whole “Trauma-Informed Care – We’ve All Been There” podcast.

Additional Resources for Behavioral Health Providers

Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services

National Council for Behavioral Health: Trauma-Informed Care

Trauma-Informed Care Implementation Resource Center

SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach

Utilizing Trauma-Informed Care to Address Trauma Reactions in Staff: Potential Impacts on Retention

As the demand for mental and behavioral health services grows, agencies need new tools to support clinical, operational, and financial functions. EHRs are key to generating efficiencies that free up administrative time so you can focus on supporting your clients. To learn more about how NextStep Solutions is purpose-built to help behavioral health practices operate at their best, contact us today.

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