Being Trauma Informed

Reflections on incorporating trauma informed practices into design projects

Emerging reflections on trauma informed practices & design

Currently, some of our collective members are taking a masterclass on being trauma informed by Shenandoah Chefalo.

We're learning the essentials of where trauma can show up in ourselves and in our organizations. This understanding helps us as designers and facilitators in many ways. I'd like to share two of the ways I'm noticing how being trauma informed can help.

A common reaction to learning we all have trauma

How trauma might show up in research

First, when we ask people to share their experiences with us we might be pushing on people's traumatic experiences through the question we ask or response we have. We've been taught to ask why multiple times, to ask people to dig deeper into an experience. This approach, in some cases, could cause harm. Someone might not expand on their experience to establish a boundary or to protect themselves.

Re-framing in trauma informed practices & in the design process

Much like problem reframing in service design and design thinking, part of trauma informed practices encourages the practitioner to reframe ways of seeing people and situations. For example, most people in adverse situations can be seen as "having something wrong with them" - "what is wrong with you?" Trauma informed practices encourage us to reframe "what is happening to you?" Shenandoah takes this further by also considering "what's strong in you?" This practice of seeing problem based behavior instead from a strength based perspective is similar to reframing challenges discovered through research in the design process.

Let's consider an example through a previous collaboration on community health and wellbeing. We collaborated with a group from the city of San Antonio, parents of children with Autism, and educators at the University of the Incarnate Word. We reframed an insight from the research into a possibility by creating a question that encourages ideas and generative thinking (a how might we question).

Insight: Parents are not feeling heard by service providers yet need to share their stories and experiences to have equitable care.
Reframed Question: How might service providers connect to and take action on parent voices and experiences?

This practice of reframing occurs in both spaces. These are some of the initial connections that I'm starting to see between design and trauma informed practices. I also see such potential for integrating trauma informed practices into design projects and collaborations. To be continued!