How can we create safety in the treatment experience?

Safety is a core principle of trauma-informed care and includes not only physical safety but also emotional and psychological safety. What one considers a safe treatment experience will look different for each person based on many factors including trauma and past treatment experiences; yet there are simple practices that can help foster environments where safety is more likely to be felt.

These practices include:

  • Ask the individual what makes them feel safe or unsafe. Ask if they are comfortable and if not, ask what you can do to make them feel more comfortable.
  • Provide the option to stand or sit. If possible, with privacy still being considered, provide an option to keep the door open.
  • Be aware of your body language and providing personal space.
  • Explain what will be occurring during your time together, including any assessments or physical tests such as checking blood pressure, and how long this will take.
  • Be transparent about why you are requesting information, what you will do with the information provided, and when you will need to take further action such as in cases of mandatory reporting.
  • Demonstrate your willingness to listen and to understand.
  • Empathize with the person on how they are feeling about their experience. For example, ‘I understand what you are hearing is frightening.’
  • Do your best to connect. If a person is not responding, do not assume that they are not hearing you.
  • Be aware of how cultural factors affect safety, i.e., body language/eye contact differences.
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