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Becoming A Trauma-Informed Organization

Updated: Apr 7


With a mission to help older Americans age in place, based on individual choice and preference, Olympic Area Agency on Aging (O3A) has taken steps towards better understanding their clients. O3A is making an organizational shift based on science and compassion by providing opportunities for their entire staff to learn about Trauma-Informed Care, an understanding and recognition of the presence of trauma symptoms and the way it impacts an individual’s life.

Kitsap Strong recently hosted SaintA’s Trauma-Informed Care: Train the Trainer workshop. In attendance was O3A’s Program Manager, Ingrid Henden. Henden is now a certified trainer and is equipped with the experience and tools necessary to lead Trauma-Informed Care workshops for all O3A branches. The workshops are full day trainings covering the basics of Trauma-Informed Care, including an introduction to the way the brain develops, functions, and recovers from trauma. Information and techniques are presented to trainees in engaging ways to prompt discussion. By going to each branch and offering these workshops, O3A encourages a common language, culture, and cohesive practice when it comes to implementing this approach in their work.

“It’s an organizational change that we need to make. And a community change we need to make.” - Jody Moss, Contracts Management & Planning Director at O3A

Why Trauma-Informed Care?

The SaintA Trauma-Informed Care methodology focuses on “Seven Essential Ingredients”: prevalence, impact, perspective shift, regulation, relationship, reason to be, and caregiver capacity. When combined, these ingredients present an approach to Trauma-Informed Care that is rooted in both a philosophical and practical standpoint.


The perspective shift exercises were especially impactful for both Henden and Moss. The curriculum asks trainees to watch a video clip featuring a silhouetted dancer spinning in a circle, and then they are asked to report which direction the dancer was rotating. Though everyone was watching the same clip, Henden shared that there was disagreement among the participants, as different people perceived the movement differently. The group then wrestled with the challenge of trying to shift their personal perspective and look at something from someone else’s view.


Photo Owned by Kitsap Strong
“When you look at the issues our clients tend to have, a lot of that can stem from childhood trauma that was never dealt with. What we are looking to do is to provide our staff with tools to better understand where our clients are coming from,” explained Henden.

By looking at the way care is provided to older adults through a trauma-informed lens, a shift towards greater client-centered care is made, and staff are more easily able to understand client behavior and not fall into reactions of blame, assumption, and judgement. “He’s acting furious, but what he might be feeling is fear.” or “She is non-compliant, but may be resisting change because in her mind it never works out.” 


In addition to childhood traumas, older adults also have their own traumas that they go through: the loss of loved ones, the loss of identity, and loss of abilities. These life events impact the way an individual responds to a situation. Henden shared that the training emphasized the importance of meeting individuals where they are at. “When you realize that some clients are starting their day already in ‘alert’ and it’s not a far jump for the brain to go from there to ‘terror’. How we react to them can impact how quickly that jump happens," said Henden. By increasing awareness on an organizational level about trauma, O3A equips staff with tools and exercises to respond to clients in more effective ways.


Implementing the Tools

O3A is hoping to soon create a Trauma-Informed Readiness Team across different departments. This team will inform an action plan for the organization. “You have to lead from the front lines. You don’t have to have all the answers to get started, your staff are the ones that really have ideas on ways to do things,” says Moss. O3A sets a strong example of what it looks like to prioritize community health by integrating Trauma-Informed Care into every department, actively seeking staff involvement in the path forward, and working towards concrete goals.


Interested in learning more about Trauma-Informed Care and how it could benefit your organization? Contact Olympic Community of Health, OCH@olympicch.org for ways to get involved.

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Olympic Community of Health (OCH) prioritizes community health needs by encouraging innovative collaboration across the Olympic region.

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