From Mandy Davis, LCSW, PhD, Director, Trauma Informed Oregon
This newsletter is about listening to those with lived experience. So what is lived experience? For us at Trauma Informed Oregon (TIO), lived experience means you have personal experience in what you are talking about. As you will see in the blogs, firsthand experience can be as a service recipient, a provider, and a survivor.
Trauma informed care (TIC) calls out the need to include the voices of those with lived experience, but why? The intention is simple—we will be more effective and efficient in improving services if we take the time to ask those who know what is challenging, helpful, and needed. Instead of worrying if we are getting it right or if “they” will like this change just ask. I believe in addition to developing better practice, including the voices of those with lived experience is also healing. It builds trust and empathy by bearing witness, validating a person’s experience, and creating authentic connections.
So why does it often feel hard to “just ask?”
I know for me that the challenge about asking for feedback is making sure I am asking in a way that all people can hear and respond. This includes the words, language, and methods we use. I also worry about who I am not hearing from or who can speak for whom. I also think a significant barrier to incorporating the voices of those with lived experience is not the act of asking but listening to the feedback. I hear about and have experienced structural barriers to listening that are often connected to time, which is often connected to funding. I have always appreciated the phrase “Hurry up and listen”. Sometimes my hesitancy to listen is because I feel compelled to fix or respond to everything I hear. As systems and providers, we need to listen to effect change. (A comment box is not effective if you don’t do anything with the responses). But, if we can’t respond or if we can’t do something right now, we still need to listen.
In a community forum in Douglas County, representatives of the cultural program of the Cow Creek Tribe came and started the day with a brief lesson about the Cow Creek Tribe. It was brief, yet powerful to learn about the adversity and the amazing strength experienced by the Cow Creek people. (To learn more about their history, click here.) How are you incorporating listening to those with lived experience? We talk about resilience including time for reflection and connection, but we need to incorporate listening as well. This could be co-workers, those you serve, your constituents, your siblings, or children.
As many of you have heard me say when I meet someone seeking support, I often ask not only about basic needs but what that persons experience is with someone like me (white, cisgender woman, social worker) and with the services I am offering (counseling, groups, advocacy). If I know someone’s background, we can connect easier by building or repairing from previous experiences.
PLEASE take some time to LISTEN through these blogs and then reflect on their impact. Do they help you empathize or connect differently, do they offer ideas on changing your practices, or do they validate what you are already doing or an experience you have had.
In August I had a delightful visit with Dr. Karen Treisman while she was touring the United States meeting with organizations and people doing TIC work. It was interesting to compare differences and similarities across countries. You can check out her work here. I particularly like this graphic of TIC.
TIO would like to thank everyone who joined us for a training and community forum in Roseburg, OR. We had 168 in the morning and 96 in the afternoon to share about what is happening and what would be helpful moving forward in this region.
Another fabulous group of folks completed the facilitators training for the Trauma Recovery Engagement Model (TREM), a group-based intervention. It was so exciting that participants included those doing peer support work and those who had completed a TREM group as a participant.
I attended a forum about Coordinated Care Organizations (CCO) 2.0 hosted by Allies for a Healthier Oregon. This gathering brought together policymakers and health authorities with advocates, consumers, community members, and providers to share information and ask questions.