What is a Trauma Informed Church?

What Is Trauma?

"Trauma is a person’s emotional response to a distressing experience. Few people can go through life without encountering some kind of trauma. Unlike ordinary hardships, traumatic events tend to be sudden and unpredictable, involve a serious threat to life—like bodily injury or death—and feel beyond a person’s control. Most important, events are traumatic to the degree that they undermine a person's sense of safety in the world and create a sense that catastrophe could strike at any time. Parental loss in childhood, auto accidents, physical violence, sexual assault, military combat experiences, the unexpected loss of a loved one are commonly traumatic events." - Psychology Today

 

What is Trauma-Informed?

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) defines any setting as 'trauma-informed' if the people there realize how widespread trauma is, recognize signs and symptoms, respond by integrating knowledge into practice, and resist doing further harm. SAMHSA further identifies six principals of trauma-informed approaches: Safety, Trustworthiness, Empowerment, Collaboration, Peer Support, and Values and Supports Diversity in History and Culture. 

 

Here at The LabOratory Church we align with these principals, and fully recognize that there is widespread trauma in our culture from individual abuse such as childhood adverse experiences, domestic abuse, and sexual violence, to systemic and societal abuse stemming from racism, sexism, ableism, homo/transphobia, etc., and that many of these toxic -isms grow out of a culture that promotes scarcity, individualism, and competition.  

 

In order to heal from trauma, there are the two stages that deal with individual healing, and a third stage that deals with healing in relationship with others. While individual therapy is absolutely necessary to help with the first two stages of healing from trauma, we believe the church has the responsibility to walk alongside the therapy process in order to facilitate and encourage the third stage of healing, which is relational healing (Please see Dr. Judith Herman's book Trauma and Recovery  for more information on these stages). As such we practice healthy personal and relational values that allow for safety in being authentically oneself (please see our Statement of Values), and room to work out interpersonal challenges as they arise. We intentionally name that we practice these principals and values, as we have learned through our own experiences of trauma, that the healing journey is messy and has many ups and downs, progress and set-backs. We are inspired by the biblical commandment: Love Our Neighbors As Ourselves!

 

Statement on Safety

Safety is a relational container and it goes back and forth between people, so while we cannot ever guarantee a 100% safe space for all people, all the time, what we can do is provide guidelines and presence to talk about safety issues as they arise. We give general content warnings, but with the knowledge that sometimes people get triggered by things that are inexplicable (ACE stuff, expressions, tone of voice, looks). We cannot promise that you will never be triggered, yet we also promise that we are here to process it if/when you are. The reality is that safe spaces should be called brave spaces, because it takes all of us to participate in the safety for it to exist. It means we all need to be doing our personal work alongside our community work, and we need to ask for what we need, and also acknowledge that not all needs can be met by this community. Some issues will require outside referrals and/or additional time and learning. This goes back to our values, we need to be honest in our communications and desires and our own stuff, and we need to be brave and vulnerable and understanding that we all have troubles and things that we navigate in relationship with others, and varying external and internal factors. The responsibility of being a healing community lies on each and every one of us, not just on church leadership. Brave community happens when we choose love over fear, honest communication over hiding or suppressing issues, and hold compassion that leaves room for grace and growth, mistakes and learning.