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Creating Safety

Inform participants about traumatic material

Many workshops and courses on trauma and trauma informed practice include examples of traumatic events.  Some of these can be graphic and may elicit an overwhelming emotional response in a participant, even trigger a traumatic memory.  Informing participants ahead of time about the type of traumatic material that will be presented (e.g. videos, audio clips, excerpts, case studies) and providing them with an opportunity to engage in the material at their own comfort level establishes safety from the onset of the training. For example you might say:

“In today’s workshop there will be visual, audio and written case examples of children who have witnessed domestic violence. Some of you may find this information very upsetting, even overwhelming. Please take whatever measures you need to take care of yourself such as tuning out, leaving the room, talking to one of us at a break or any other self-care/safety strategies that help you to feel safe.”

Establish Ground Rules/Guidelines for the training

Participants can develop their own set of guidelines or the trainer/facilitator can present some pre-established guidelines and ask for additions, revisions etc…

Create Personal Safety or Self-care plans as an activity

Have participants create personal safety plans - they can use 3X5 cards to write down three to five things they can do for themselves if they are beginning to feel unsafe. Provide examples (e.g. breathe, listen to a particular song, walk around, call a friend) See http://www.socialwork.buffalo.edu/students/self-care/developing-emergenc.... (this activity can also be used with adult and child (ren) clients and consumers)

Provide opportunities for respite from the traumatic material in the workshop.

Timothy Black (2006) notes that laughter can be antithetical to trauma. Build in some fun exercises in your training day. Have toys or art supplies on the tables that participants can use as they choose. Have slides with beautiful pictures of natural settings; include funny cartoons and/or soothing and uplifting music.