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Trauma-informed care

“Trauma-informed” treatment/nutrition counseling/care is a phrase you’re going to be hearing a lot more of, and using, if you haven’t been already.

It’s not new, but it’s reaching a tipping point toward common usage in our field. It’s easy to see why – it’s an important tenet of “do no harm” care, it fills a gap, and it’s sort of a buzzword (buzzphrase?) if you’re someone in the know.

But therein lies the problem – not everyone’s in the know. “Trauma-informed care” is a phrase easy to (mis)interpret. Not unlike “medical nutrition therapy” – where the words have different meanings when you put them all together.

The inevitable result? Miscommunication. When someone very comfortable with the phrase uses it when speaking with someone who’s not, person 2 – believing that words mean what they mean, because why wouldn’t you? – will extrapolate the meaning but might not be right. Just like when insurance denies your patient’s MNT because they don’t cover “elective intravenous nutrient infusions.” They do understand the words, yes? Medical? Nutrition? Therapy? Check, check, check. But not what they mean when they’re put all together.

Some recent situations have had me considering that the same thing is happening with our new buzzphrase. There are smart dietitians not bothering to ask because they clearly know the words. Trauma? Informed? Care? See what I mean?

And lest you think these misunderstandings are the domain of the new noobs on the block, let me confide: there are words and phrases commonly used in our field that I didn’t grasp, didn’t understand, and didn’t know who to ask – right up to the moment they left my own mouth. And if our colleagues don’t know what we mean, it is *literally impossible* we are conveying our meaning to the public.

So just in case I’m one of the people who thinks I know what trauma-informed care is but don’t, and just in case you’re one, too, let’s do this together:

According to The Trauma-Informed Care Implementation Resource Center‘s adaptation of SAMHSA’s Guiding Principles of Trauma-Informed Care:

Trauma-informed care “seeks to realize the widespread impact of trauma [I interpret this as including one-time traumatic events as well as ongoing stressful situations and widespread injustices that cause harm] and understand paths for recovery; recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in patients, families, and staff; integrate knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; and actively avoid re-traumatization.”

They continue with the 6 core-principles of a trauma-informed approach to care:

“Safety: Throughout the organization, patients and staff feel physically and psychologically safe

Trustworthiness + Transparency: Decisions are made with transparency, and with the goal of building and maintaining trust

Peer Support: Individuals with shared experiences are integrated into the organization and viewed as integral to service delivery

Collaboration: Power differences — between staff and clients and among organizational staff — are leveled to support shared decision-making

Empowerment: Patient and staff strengths are recognized, built on, and validated — this includes a belief in resilience and the ability to heal from trauma

Humility + Responsiveness: Biases and stereotypes (e.g., based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, geography) and historical trauma are recognized and addressed”

And voila! Now we all know the basics of trauma-informed care. Are you ready for more? And specifically how to apply this newfound knowledge in your nutrition counseling work (also your elective intravenous nutrient infusions if you happen to be into that)?

If so, you’re in luck, because – as any up and coming buzzphrase should be – trauma-informed is a happening topic among the free CEU offerings listed below.

And not free, but probably worth 10x what it costs, there’s the fabulous Fiona Sutherland – who I met (coincidentally? because that seems unlikely, in context) at the scene of a traumatic event – and Tracy Brown online course, TRAUMA-INFORMED CARE: A Nervous System-Informed Course for Nutrition & Health Professionals.

And if you are an early adopter (or even an innovator – go you!) of trauma-informed care, there’s one other thing you can do: share this email with your proteges, just in case they don’t know they don’t know what you’re talking about.

With ongoing gratitude for being in community with you, and for the time you took to read my thoughts, Jessica

Reminder: Eating Disorders Boot Camp is available for instant download any time at Recent comment from a colleague: “This has been on my radar so long – I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner. My work is so much easier now!”

In need of more specific help? Losing sleep or ready to quit? I’m available most workdays by zoom or phone. Specialties are CEDS supervision and super-stressful, challenging situations. Day one RDNs to Supervisors. Click here for rates or email me at and let’s schedule ASAP.

Free CEU opportunities and as always, please let me know if you have one to share:

Free download, Gina Mateer’s 5 Tips for Dietitians Working with Trauma

When the Solution Becomes the Problem: Avoidance in Trauma and Eating Disorders 9/22

Trauma and Self-harm 10/2-3

Strategies for using trauma informed care when discussing weight in clinical practice 10/4

Understanding the Effect of Emotional Energy on the Physical Body in the Treatment of ED

Full spectrum support: Offering gender affirming ED care for all genders

A Paradigm Shift: A New Way to Treat Eating Disorders and Substance Use Concurrently How to Build Confidence in Your Practice and Break Free from Imposter Syndrome free Workshop with Alissa Rumsey free to download till 9/1

Suicide Assessment, Intervention, and Postvention in Eating Disorder Treatment 9/5

When Talk Therapy Isn’t Enough: In Vivo Exposures and Eating Disorder Treatment 9/8

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