Trauma-informed services is one of the nine guiding principles at Youthlink, but why is it so important?

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Shannon Brennan is YouthLink’s Therapist, and helps young people overcome trauma they’ve experienced so they can heal and move forward. In this article, she explains why working with youth from a trauma-informed perspective is so important.

We recognize many of our clients may have experienced multiple childhood traumas in addition to the trauma of being homeless and in survival mode. As service providers, it’s essential that we understand the affects complex trauma can have on their lives if we’re going to provide appropriate services and interventions.

Complex trauma can impact youth in many ways:

  • Attachment and relationships
  • Physical Health: Body and Brain
  • Emotional Responses
  • Dissociation
  • Behavior
  • Cognition
  • Self-Concept & Future Orientation
  • Long-Term Health Consequences
  • Economic Impact
    *taken from: *http://www.nctsn.org/trauma-types/complex-trauma

Most importantly, complex trauma affects a youth’s stability and ability to perform at their highest level in school, employment, housing and life, creating additional barriers to success. Many of these youth also lack trust in adults and have limited support systems that, again, act as barriers to moving forward. It’s a tricky cycle to break.

As service providers to homeless young people, we must all understand how their past and present trauma can impact their daily activities so we can prevent re-traumatization and help them move forward. At YouthLink, we work hard to ensure all staff and volunteers interacting with youth are educated on this principle so that the moment a youth walks through our doors, everyone is able to work through a trauma lens and begin to build relationships that are empowering and strengths based.

Often the way youth present themselves can be easily misunderstood and misjudged. But when we look at their behavior through a trauma lens, we can see it’s symptomatic of their histories and we can intervene appropriately, while teaching youth new coping skills.

Youth are often unaware of how their trauma impacts their daily life. To bring some awareness to this, staff can educate youth and normalize their experiences. This opens an opportunity to connect to mental health resources providing specific trauma focused therapeutic services, and allowing them to begin healing. In addition, their ability to succeed in all of their identified goals becomes stronger when reducing trauma symptoms and increasing healthier coping skills.

Most importantly we must remember that it is not their trauma that defines these youth, rather it is their resiliency, bravery, strength, and love that shines through every day and continually teaches us about the meaning of courage.

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