The Importance of Lived Experience

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January 31, 2018

From Lee Ann Phillips, MSW, Project Manager, Trauma Informed Oregon

Happy New Year!

As the Project Manager on Trauma Informed Oregon (TIO) and often the first point of contact, I have had the wonderful opportunity to hear about the amazing trauma informed work that is being done around the state to improve services. I have heard about the challenges, barriers, successes, and innovative practices. I have seen Trauma Informed Care (TIC) roll across many systems, communities, and populations served, and have heard about dedicated individuals, youth, families, and staff working together to implement TIC in hopes of creating a better experience for staff and for the people accessing those services. I have seen the voice of people with lived experience be incorporated in these changes and have watched peer-led services thrive. It is very rewarding to be witness to these changes happening in Oregon.

What has excited me is the energy that surrounds this work and how it is evolving as more innovative practices are implemented. Each organization is looking at TIC in their own way and making it work within that system and for the populations they serve. I have seen the momentum swing from mental health to education to faith-based organizations to counties and everything in between. It is truly inspiring to be a part of this widely expanding movement.

My Role at TIO

In 2014, I was hired at TIO to assist in the development of Trauma Informed Oregon, be the first point of contact, and coordinate trainings and forums around the state. Since then, my role has evolved. What hasn’t changed, and is one of my favorite parts of this work, is being the initial contact. This role allows me to hear what our constituents need to help TIO be responsive and helpful. I also continue to assist with trainings but have added an intern program and bring a lived experience perspective to our work, which is what I want to share in this blog post.

My personal background of living through multiple adverse childhood experiences, being a first generation college graduate, and identifying as an LGBTQ woman has given me the perspective to see the value of TIC and a commitment to lived experience voice.

Because of my identities, my previous work with transition-aged youth with mental health stressors in foster care, and my strong belief in the value of lived experience expertise it has been exciting for me to be given the task of incorporating individual, family, and youth voices in the work we do at TIO. Some work we have done in previous years to meet this need include:

What is Next?

In 2018, one focus area of TIO will be to continue to evolve and develop strategies that meaningfully incorporate lived experience voice in TIC work. This will include researching strategies, increasing resources, and hearing from you lphil@pdx.edu on what is working and needed. I am excited to be leading this effort. I will be exploring ways to be in touch so I can hear about and learn from your experiences. The goals for this part of my work include:

  • Reaching out to interested folks regarding focus groups about lived experience so TIO can hear directly about what is going on and what is needed across the state.
  • Increasing resources and supporting TIC peer-delivered service options.
  • Collaborating and visiting with peer organizations and people with lived experience to assess needs and partnering to create tools and share resources.

A friend who is a trauma survivor shared a quote with me a few months back, ”You do not need to be our voice. Just hand us the mic.” I was reminded again of this wise quote recently with the news about the women gymnasts from Michigan State University speaking up about their trauma experience as young adults and children and the powerful impact it is having on all of us. This is a good reminder as we do this work to remember to “hand over the mic and listen.” I look forward to the opportunity to hear from you in the coming months and do just that—listen.

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