Moving from Concept to Practice: A Trauma Informed Business Model
Updated: Feb 19
By Anjali Chainani
with contributions from Andres Celin and Stephanie Bird
As the CEO of Anavi Strategies, a consulting firm supporting non-profit organizations and business leaders, my personal passion and commitment is that all people maneuvering in and around organizational systems, including individuals who have experienced trauma in their lives and in their work, are empowered to take action.
Integral to this commitment is ensuring we are educated on the latest field research and practices focusing on trauma and trauma-informed care in order to develop an organizational culture that is relevant, evidence-based, and up-to-date. Furthermore, because we are creating a model for this business context, a commitment to continuous learning and adaptation is critical.
Clear commitments are driving our actions.
Last month, we started reviewing existing and current literature on trauma and attended introductory workshops that provided basic information on trauma. Awareness is the first step. The goal was to gain a more concrete understanding of:
How trauma is defined
Impacts of trauma on the body and the brain for adults and children
Understanding of key concepts in trauma work such as:
Vicarious or secondary trauma
Post-traumatic growth, and
Signs and symptoms of secondary trauma
Developing a trauma-informed workplace
What We Are Learning & Implementing
Trauma is clearly defined.
Trauma is an emotional event that causes stress, alarm, fear, or terror. Powerful sensory memories are created when a child or an adult experiences a traumatic event, which can change how we process information, make decisions, behave with others, or speak.
Trauma is prevalent, and affects all individuals, organizations, systems, and the workforce.
Trauma is a part of the human experience for every single one of us, and traumatic events can happen to any one of us. Sixty-four percent (64%) of adults have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience. However, trauma awareness and strategies for how to interact with trauma impacted people are rarely discussed or talked about in professional settings.
Trauma-informed processes must be flexible.
In a workplace environment, if a sensory memory associated with a previous traumatic event is triggered, a person may be unable to concentrate, may disassociate from their tasks or their peers, or may react aggressively or emotionally. A more common way to describe the continuum of trauma-induced reactions is that we move into “fight, flight, or freeze” mode.
Trauma can impact organizations, too. Organizational symptoms of trauma include fragmentation, numbing, reactivity, and depersonalization (Trauma Informed & San Francisco Department of Public Health, 2017) and can ultimately lead to re-traumatizing staff, clients, and members of the community who engage with the organization.
Trauma-responses are unique to each individual, which means trauma-informed processes within organizations need to be flexible. Because each of us has a unique set of lived experiences, how we react to, deal with, and regulate from trauma is different. Some instances of trauma can resolve on their own, and people can develop increased resilience, compassion, and empathy for themselves and others.
Creating a trauma-informed organization requires going from concept to practice.
Anavi Strategies is now working on ensuring our procedures reflect:
An organization-wide commitment to intentional create a trauma-informed culture within this organization;
Committing to a journey that will require organizational assessments that involve staff, and an organized review of agency principles and practices;
Supervisory processes and relationships designed to enhance the knowledge and skills associated with being a trauma-informed organization (Berger, 2016).
Reviewing updated evidence regularly, understanding its implications, and thoughtfully integrating what applies to our context;
Documenting and sharing our knowledge and evidence as we create new processes, apply them in practice, observe and reflect on the impact and implications, and change course as needed;
Identifying relevant training opportunities, and ensuring staff has access to them. Additionally providing supplementary materials that connects key concepts, existing evidence from the field, and lessons learned from our own firm’s work with clients; and
Monitoring and evaluating progress to establish best practices to share with other organization and business leaders.
Current frameworks for therapeutic processes are not adequate for Anavi Strategies.
As a consulting firm working with non-profits and their philanthropic partners, as well as business leaders, it is imperative we create a framework that is appropriate for our context, clients, and staff.
We have identified and defined 5 unique principles and 10 key practices that are grounded in the existing evidence base, but created for Anavi Strategies’ mission and vision.
The following example aims to illustrate our approach.
Self-care is a widely known concept, which intuitively may imply that a person is wholly responsible for their own self-care. However, Anavi Strategies believes that employees within an organization need to have structures and processes in place that support a person’s ability to institute, manage, and execute their own self-care plans. Therefore, Anavi Strategies is developing standard operating procedures for educating and promoting self-care within our business context. Elevating self-care within Anavi Strategies will be facilitated through:
Training supervisors on embodying a respectful, supportive, and caring-style of regular supervision;
Providing resources that raise awareness of secondary traumatic stress or vicarious trauma, and how it can impact employees who are doing the work we are doing;
Providing clear opportunities for professional growth and advancement through goal setting and varying job duties;
Actively addressing language and behaviors that have the ability to create a toxic workplace.
Our organizational culture also elevates the responsibility of team members for their own self-care within the workplace. Team members are be expected to, and be provided with the means to:
Manage their time;
Pace their workload;
Take short breaks; and
Use dedicated meeting time to debrief and process.
We are conceptualizing. We are testing. We are documenting. We are revising. We are sharing.
We are excited to continue sharing our process and learnings with you. Please follow us on social media, leave a comment, or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.