square bulletOpening 2023 with a Focus on Climate and Culture, an Essential Element of Trauma Informed Care

From , LCSW, PhD, Director, Trauma Informed Oregon

It is 2023 and I hope this year provides the right amount of reflection, laugher, silence, connection, and joy as needed. I am focusing this newsletter on the Essential Element of Climate and Culture. When we envisioned the Four Essential Elements, the prominence of Climate and Culture among them was pronounced (I think we are adding a 5th Essential Element — stay tuned). This Element is described as:

“what we would see, hear, do, and experience in the spaces and places we do this work. An organization that is grounded in trauma informed approaches will have environments that represent the principles of trauma informed care. One will see and hear practices and habits that demonstrate an understanding of the impact of trauma and toxic stress on the body (both individual and organizational) and power of relationship and belonging. This will show up in language that is used, protocols that are followed, and behaviors witnessed. This is the cohesive narrative, the glue, that holds a TI community together.”

It is the relationship between the elements that is important. Feedback, training, commitment, and policy/practice review are not effective if they do not create spaces and places where people feel they belong. The other elements are a bit easier to measure (# of trainings, change in knowledge, # of policies, etc.). So, how do you measure that the culture and climate are trauma informed and healing focused?

An activity I enjoy is a visualization where I ask participants to envision their work environments as trauma informed, inclusive, culturally sustaining, and healing focused. I invite participants to take a “tour” of their workplace and note what they smell, hear, see, touch, taste, and sense in their bodies. This activity allows us to dream of what we want to create versus only noting what is not working. The results have included the smell of coffee and cinnamon; the sound of laughter and hearing adults say “I’m sorry”; the taste of peppermint; the sight of affirming posters or sayings on the walls; free childcare onsite; and so on. People also describe a sense of awakening and excitement, a normalizing of all feels. I have also heard people say they can’t imagine a place where they would feel they belong and are safe. We honor and learn from this experience also. The responses are vast, diverse, and sometimes contradictory. And, they knowing this helps guide us in our trauma informed work.

The implementation tool we are finishing attempts to capture indicators of Climate and Culture, including welcoming spaces, incident response practices, and examples of how relationships are centered. A more effective way we can measure this is by asking those in our spaces and places how they experience them.

However, there are limits to what our assessment tools can capture. I am very interested in how you know an environment is trauma informed? What do you look for, hear, and feel in your body? I often ask organizations about how they give space for grief, or how they celebrate accomplishments and show appreciation. These practices of belonging and compassion can be as simple as inviting reactions/emoji to be used in virtual gatherings to holding monthly moments to honor losses.

The beauty of this work is that it takes on so many forms across sectors, people, and culture. We want to hear how you experience an environment that is trauma informed, because sharing these examples helps us expand our understanding.

TIO 2022 Highlights:

It has been an energetic year at TIO. A few highlights:

  • Hired 5 staff who come with new and amazing gifts and offerings.
  • Developed and piloted 2 culturally specific Training of Trainers (more coming).
  • Facilitated a culturally specific Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model training.
  • Launched monthly Somatic Moments for anyone.
  • Launched Nourish the Network to connect in multiple ways and hear what is happening and needed. So far, we have gatherings for champions, educators, behavioral health providers, and rural providers. Join us anytime, and if you have a group you want to gather let us know.
  • Piloted, with the Human Services Implementation Lab, an implementation tool for organizations to measure their TI efforts. We expect this tool to be on TIO’s website when it is complete.
  • Completed new, updated online learning modules on the Foundations of TIC that will replace our previous set of learning modules. You can access the video portion of these modules on TIO’s new Vimeo page and they will be on TIO’s website soon.
  • Over 2000 people participated in TIO’s live and virtual educational offerings (including ~ 300 youth).
  • OTAC (TIO’s young person coalition) and TIO staff developed an easy-to-use tool (waterproof QR code sticker) for middle schoolers to access mental health resources.
  • Provided workforce wellness strategies for the general population and for culturally specific organizations.
  • 92 people completed Trainings of Trainers in 2022.
  • Started a culturally specific disaster resilience learning network.
  • Started to work on state and federal policies to support community wellness and resilience.
  • Piloted a trainer manual and 3-day Training of Trainers in response to a desire to have more time.
  • Hosted Fentanyl 101 sessions with over 200 in attendance. Facilitated by Lydia Anne M Bartholow DNP, PMHNP, CARN-AP

Upcoming Tools and Trainings from Trauma Informed Oregon

  • In partnership with Andrea Redeau, LPC Uniquely You Counseling, we are working on an Organizational Toolkit to respond to racial harm experienced by behavioral health providers on the job. [If you want to share your experiences please contact Andrea at]
  • In partnership with Juliana Wallace, LCSW, CADC II, we are developing a pre- and de-escalation training that is grounded in TI values and principles.
  • More Training of Trainers offerings are coming.
  • In partnership with Erin Fairchild, MSW, we will soon have Trauma Informed Supervision resources available.
  • More Fentanyl 101 sessions, and addiction and TIC content are coming.

TIO Reminders and Offers of Assistance

TIO Is Seeking a Workforce Wellness Pilot Project Participant

TIO is offering a new workforce wellness pilot project called “Divining Liberation.” This is a 4-part series designed to support employees of color and culture within an affinity space. Beyond general workforce wellness, participants will explore the intersections between lived experiences, TIC, cultivated resilience, and healing practices embedded within one’s own culture of origin.


  • Recognizing The Roots: Past, Historical, and Racialized forms of Trauma
  • Uprooting Harm, Including Internalized Oppression
  • Individual and Collective Embodiment of Liberation and Healing

If an affinity group or ERG in your organization is interested in piloting this project, please contact our training team at

Oregon’s Legislative Session Has Started

Let us know if TIO can provide any education or information that is helpful.

Responding to Racial Harm Experienced by Behavioral Health Providers on the Job

As mentioned above, we are working with Andrea Redeau, LPC, Uniquely You Counseling, to create an Organizational Toolkit to respond to racial harm experienced by behavioral health providers on the job. We want this work to be informed by those in the field so please reach out if you would like to share your experiences. Contact Andrea at

TIO Staff Updates

Isha Charlie McNeely Moving On from TIO

A great part of this work is the people I get to work alongside. Here are some updates about these amazing people.

Isha Charlie McNeely has been with TIO since 2016, and is now moving on. TIO is better at what we do because of Charlie. I will miss working with her daily, but her influence will always be present. From Isha Charlie:

I’ve had the pleasure of working for TIO since 2016. I started as an intern, then became the Director of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Outreach and Leadership Team, and eventually became the Training Coordinator. During this time I also led our monthly young adult advocacy council. I have seen TIO grow in the best of ways and live up to the high standards that attracted me to working for this organization. It has been amazing to see a team “walk the talk” and really serve the community and state in a way that prioritizes the most vulnerable and unseen populations on every level (micro, meso, and macro).

My transition is due to my and my family’s relocation to Houston to be closer to our support system. If it wasn’t for that, TIO would have to cease to exist in order to get rid of me fully.

I still will be connected, as I have future plans to be part of some work groups and projects that I am passionate about.

I will now be passing the torch on to Sarai Serrano, who has been on our young adult council for a few years as well as a student here at Portland State University. She has been part of creating some amazing resources and materials to make access to mental health resources and overall wellness easier and trauma-informed for youth across the state. over the years I have known her, she has been a loyal contributor and a hard-working and passionate youth when it comes to being a voice for and elevating BIPOC Folks to ensure they are centered in the work that we do. I am excited for what she will accomplish in this next phase of her career!

With gratitude and not so goodbye-bye,

Welcome Sarai Serrano!

Sarai will be coordinating all trainings and events and working with TIO’s Oregon Trauma Advocates Coalition.

Sarai coordinates all incoming training requests and consultation needs and the Oregon Trauma Advocates Coalition (OTAC). She was a member of OTAC during high school, where she collaborated with others to create accessible, trauma-informed resources and materials for mental health and overall wellness for youth across Oregon. She is a second year student at Portland State University, majoring in Communication with minors in Chicano/Latine Studies and Spanish.

Sarai has been a passionate advocate for social justice and mental health, especially within the BIPOC community. She hopes to uplift her Latine community through trauma-informed mental health advocacy, especially for the youth who are first-generation in the U.S. or have immigrant parents/guardians.

Outside of work, Sarai is a thrill seeker who enjoys activities like bungee jumping, zip lining, extreme roller coasters, cliff jumping, skycoasters and horror movies. She is an avid music lover and listens to various genres like Latin America music; Mexican; jazz; r&b/soul; alternative; and Korean, Japanese, Chinese and French pop and hip-hop. She enjoys traveling nationally and hopes to start traveling abroad soon; spending quality time with her partner, friends and family; attending concerts and music festivals; and binge-watching sitcoms and comedy and drama shows.

Welcome Lilly Kennedy!

Lilly has joined TIO as a research assistant and is helping us stay on top of the latest research.

Lilly is a Portland State University graduate with a degree in Psychology. Advocacy has been a central theme in her studies and work. She has volunteered as a sexual assault survivor advocate and worked as a domestic violence survivor advocate before joining the TIO team. Now, as a research assistant at TIO, Lilly assists multiple members of TIO with projects. Lilly is hoping to pursue a Master’s of Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Portland State and, beyond that, achieve her Ph.D. with a focus on Forensic Psychology.

In her free time, Lilly spends time with her two cats and pitbull. She reads novels and non-fiction. Lilly enjoys creating textile art, especially clothing. Her favorite pastime is hosting murder mysteries with friends and family.

Welcome Valerie Edwards!

Valerie will be helping TIO with messaging and developing resources.

Valerie Edwards (she/her) is a Student Intern at TIO. With an undergraduate background in Human Development & Family Studies and Applied Positive Psychology, she is finishing up her Master of Public Health degree at Oregon State University.

Valerie has several years of experience working directly with families and also behind the scenes working with data. She is passionate about promoting mental health and working with families to educate, prevent, and mitigate the effects of adverse childhood experiences. Outside of work, she loves spending time gardening, reading, and with her many pets.