Opening lecture traumatizes audience

“Trauma-informed care is not about working with trauma,” said Dr. Carla Burke at the opening lecture for the fall academic year at the College. “It’s about creating an organizational culture and environment that is conducive to healing and does not re-traumatize people. This is actually better for all of us.”

“Our world is full of so much trauma,” Burke continued by list examples of trauma including physical violence, emotional and or sexual abuse; neglect or abandonment; divorce; alcoholism or drug addiction; family violence; poverty, homelessness; lack of food and basic needs; having a family member in prison and/or a family member with mental illness.

Burke’s thesis is that people who work in the helping professions need to understand that there is a bigger picture to healing trauma than just medication or therapy. She is advocating that organizations intentionally address how organizational culture contributes to healing including everything from physical facilities to personal relationships to policies and procedures and to our own attitudes and beliefs. She also extended the idea of trauma to the everyday workplace, not just health care settings.

Burke shared statistics about the rates of people who report experiencing trauma and commented that the numbers may actually under-represent men due to the shame males experience related to revealing a history of some kinds of abuse.

She briefly discussed how trauma impacts the development of the brain and compromises social, emotional, and cognitive ability.

Burke asked the audience to close their eyes and consider the trauma their co-workers may have experienced and how that may have been affected them. She challenged the audience to set aside assumptions about our co-workers and discussed how being respectful and sensitive to others can create a safer, healing environment for everyone.

The difference between people who heal and people who do not heal is social support, Burke said. She cited a longevity study that found the single common characteristic to living a long life was having someone you could call in the middle of the night and a sense of belonging to a group.

Burke is a psychologist who has conducted research and been a professor in higher education for many years. She is now in private practice specializing in therapy for helping professionals.