A little about Trauma:
Trauma is a hidden epidemic affecting 90% of individuals who seek public behavioral health services (SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health solutions). It’s life-shaping and impacts not only the individuals, but families, communities and service systems. The UNE School of Social Work believes that social workers need to be at the forefront of change by creating healing, trauma-informed communities.
Most importantly, a trauma-informed approach does not apply only to those that are known to have a history of trauma, nor does it imply pathology; rather, it is a preventative and respectful approach that appreciates the complexity of being human in a complicated world. Trauma informed approaches compel anyone who touches people’s lives to shift their paradigm from one that asks people, “What happened to you?” rather than by implication assuming pathology or illness by inquiring, “What’s wrong with you?”
According to SAMHSA (2014), guidance for infusing trauma informed concepts into institutional practices requires change at multiple levels aligned with the six key principles for trauma informed practice. “While it is recognized that not all public institutions and service sectors attend to trauma as an aspect of how they conduct business, understanding the role of trauma and a trauma-informed approach may help them meet their goals and objectives” (SAMHSA, 2014, p. 12).
UNE’s Trauma-Informed Certificate prepares MSW students to become practitioners and leaders versed in trauma theory, the neurobiology of complex trauma, the effects of working with trauma, and evidence- and community-informed practice on the micro, mezzo, and macro level. The certificate allows students to design a course of study (at no extra cost) that prepares them with skills and tools that can be applied on both micro- and macro-practice levels.
A little about Lara:
After graduating with a degree in International Studies and Anthropology, Lara spent three years in nine different African countries doing refugee resettlement work. As her interest in mental health and trauma developed, she began researching trauma-informed practices while also learning more about mindfulness practices. She became a trained yoga instructor and took courses through UMass Medical School to become a qualified teacher of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which she continues to infuse into her yoga practice today. As she grew in her knowledge, she yearned for more, and wanted to be able to offer these practices to wider populations. This is ultimately what lead her to apply to UNE’s MSW program.
An MSW would provide Lara not only with more clinical knowledge and skills, but as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, she has the credentials necessary to work in clinical settings with a wide range of populations. She could feasibly start her own private practice and bill for services, which allows her to reach populations who may otherwise not be able to afford it. “It makes these practices so much more accessible,” she shares through a smile, “which is what my current field placement, Good Medicine Collective, is all about.”
See our blog post Clinical Social Work Vs. Psychology, What’s the Difference? to learn more about what opportunities are available to you as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
Lara’s Field Placement:
Lara is currently doing her Field Placement at Good Medicine Collective, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to re-imagine and reclaim health with community at the front and center. The collective describes itself as a whole health playground where collaborative health providers, a wellness cafe-LB Kitchen West, a community studio space and hydrotherapy room are all housed under one roof. And their aim is to make these holistic experiences inviting and affordable to all.
They want to expand the current narrative of health beyond biomarkers. They believe radical health is feeling empowered to embody rich life experience: the joy as well as the suffering. It does not mean fixing or numbing or distracting. They feel people find their whole health through nourishing food, authentic relationships, invigorating movement, inspired creativity, contemplation, laughter, vulnerability, storytelling, connection to nature and this earth to which we belong.
Good Medicine Guiding Principles:
Lara pioneered in creating her placement at The Good Medicine. The Good Medicine opened just this year, but she was aware of its development long before and had already identified it as a place she wanted to work. Forging new ground, she worked with UNE’s Field Faculty to establish it as a new official UNE field placement.”It’s been incredible to be with an organization at its origins, particularly as we think about how to implement trauma-informed practices,” shares Lara.
“I think it’s a unique experience in that we don’t need to break anything down before we can begin to build something new. We can simply infuse the trauma-informed principles into the system from the ground up.”
Lara has taken a leadership role in guiding the development of trauma informed practices at her placement, from the aesthetics and spatial arrangement to policy, programming and event planning.
Lara consulted with individuals from various populations about how to design a space that was thoughtful and inclusive. “We have military decals on the window, for example,” she shares, which was an intentional choice guided by a veteran who shared that these are easily recognizable symbols of welcome and safety among veterans populations.
There is also an LGBTQ+ poster on the wall that offers gender definitions. “This relays a message of inclusiveness, while it also serves as an educational tool in a form that is non-threatening.” She describes another poster that gets a lot of attention: “How to effectively talk about racism. People stop in front of that one for a while!”
Lara recently helped jump start a Champions of Trauma committee. “A committee is really a first step, and is actually a direct result of the Trauma courses I’ve taken at UNE,” she shares. “This really hits on all the trauma principles for an organization. It’s about bringing people in at all levels to share their feedback around what kind of environment feels safe to them and whether or not they feel the space represents them.” The Committee will meet monthly and guide the development of policies and programming.
Lara also organizes other events as well like Dignity Days. Dignity Days are an invitation for the community of Portland to come share a warm, caring, creative space with services ranging from winter clothes to hair cuts, food, warm drinks art supplies, music and more. The intention of Dignity Days is to extend Good Medicine Collective’s mission to reimagine and reclaim whole health to the entire community of Portland during these cold winter months. Our partnership with Art Life Studios furthers this mission of whole health to include their mission which emphasizes the importance of passion, creativity and community as an essential (and often overlooked) element of radical health and mutual thriving. Both Art Life Studios and Good Medicine Collective are guided by harm reduction principles that welcome people of all walks of life without discrimination or stigmatization. Put succinctly, everyone is welcome.
The first Dignity Day was Dec 15th from 12-5pm. People were offered rides from Preble Street, Florence House and all over Portland area and brought to good medicine collective. “Over 60 people showed up and enjoyed warm drinks and food, 49 people received hair cuts, 24 people got massages and 13 people were seen by doctors” Lara shared, “Everyone shopped at our dignity store where there were loads of blankets, jackets, warm clothing and hygiene kits. We hope to host our next one late January/early February.”
LET EQUABILITY BE OUR GUIDE
Lara talks a lot about the differences between creating spaces and programs that are equitable more than they are simply diverse. “Diversity suggests a commodification of people as a surface show rather than the deep rooted systemic change that equity acknowledges.” Lara aims to create spaces and programming that are both diverse and equitable. She will graduate with her MSW in 2021 and aims to continue to create spaces, policies, and practices that are trauma informed. She will continue to infuse yoga and mindfulness into her practice as she moves forward as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker to create a more equitable world!
Read our other posts, Student Trauma Change Project and Weight Watchers Weigh-Ins and PEACE PLACE posts to see what other students are doing with their Trauma Certificates!