What is trauma-informed language? Trauma-informed language refers to the way we communicate with and about individuals who have experienced trauma. The goal is to create a safe and supportive environment by avoiding language that could be triggering or re-traumatizing. Using trauma-informed language helps reduce the risk of further harm and supports healing and recovery.

Trauma is a significant and pervasive issue that affects individuals from all walks of life. It can arise from various forms of violence, abuse, or neglect, and its impact can be long-lasting and far-reaching. Trauma-informed care is a therapeutic approach that seeks to recognize the signs of trauma and support individuals in their healing journey. One key aspect of this approach is the use of trauma-informed language, which is essential in creating a safe and supportive environment for trauma survivors.

Here are some key principles of trauma-informed language:
  1. Use person-first language: Person-first language places the individual before their trauma, emphasizing their inherent worth and dignity as human beings. For example, instead of referring to someone as a “trauma victim,” you could say “a person who has experienced trauma.” This language acknowledges that the individual’s experience of trauma is only one aspect of their identity and does not define them.
  2. Avoid blaming language: Language that implies fault or blame can be triggering for trauma survivors. Instead, focus on empathy and support. For example, instead of asking “What’s wrong with you?” you could say “How can I help you?” This approach validates the individual’s feelings and experiences while emphasizing your willingness to support them.
  3. Avoid triggering language: Certain words or phrases can trigger traumatic memories or emotions. Examples might include graphic descriptions of violence or sexual abuse. It’s important to be aware of these triggers and avoid using language that could be distressing for the individual. If you’re unsure what language might be triggering, you can ask the individual directly what language they prefer or find helpful.
  4. Respect boundaries: Trauma survivors may have specific boundaries around touch, personal space, or certain topics of conversation. It’s important to respect these boundaries and avoid language or actions that could be perceived as invasive or disrespectful. If you’re unsure of the individual’s boundaries, you can ask them directly or seek guidance from a trauma-informed professional.
  5. Provide options: Trauma survivors may have difficulty making decisions or feeling in control. Providing options can help to empower them and promote a sense of agency. For example, instead of telling someone what to do, you could offer a range of options and allow them to choose what feels most comfortable for them.

In conclusion, trauma-informed language is a crucial component of trauma-informed care. It emphasizes empathy, support, and respect for the individual’s experiences and boundaries. Using trauma-informed language can create a safe and supportive environment that promotes healing and recovery.

  • by David James, Chief Development Officer