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A Trauma-Informed Approach Check in, Choice, Control.

27 March 2023

Written by Jude, member of Steering Group with Lived Experience
What does trauma-informed working look like? For us at Brighton and Hove Common Ambition (BHCA) it is multi-faceted, but essentially it’s about checking in, choice and control.

We start and end every session with a check in. This allows each person to take time to consciously think about and vocalise how they are and how they found the session. We are all individuals so will find different things difficult or triggering. The type of day you are having can also have an impact on how able you are to deal with difficult subjects. That’s why the check in at the beginning is so important as it brings our awareness to how we are doing that day. If we have been discussing a topic that has triggered us in some way the check out at the end gives us the opportunity to recognise that and hopefully think about how we will deal with any feelings it has left us with. And, of course, the BHCA facilitators are also available to chat to about anything that feels tricky.

There is a real culture of choice at BHCA. For a start there is never any pressure to come. We can opt out of any meetings for any reason with no questions asked. If we do make the choice to join the session we are reminded that we can choose how involved we are in proceedings. We can take an active part in the discussions, share a personal story or opinion, help to read out information, write an idea on a post-it note or just listen to what is being said. Whatever feels right for us on the day is the right choice.

Lastly, we are encouraged to keep control of what we deal with at all times. That can mean we take a step out of the session if we are finding it difficult. There is a balcony off the room we use and that has become a space of retreat where we can have a breath of fresh air, a smoke or even a cry, if needs be. Whenever someone steps out they are always discreetly followed by one of the facilitators who check in with that person to make sure they are looked after and have everything they need to look after themselves. Recently we read a piece of work that contained some potentially triggering statistics. Before the work was handed out the difficult bit was covered up with post it notes so that we had control over whether we chose to remove the post-it notes and read the material. We were warned before it was handed out so that we could all make an informed choice about reading it or not.

At BHCA we all look out for each other, but we’re also empowered to look after ourselves. We deal with some hard hitting topics and although there will never be a perfect system where we can mitigate every trigger, our trauma-informed approach helps to keep everyone safe and happy.

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