Trauma-Informed Care Informational Interview with Jedd Hafer

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Jedd Hafer

Excelsior is happy to welcome Jedd Hafer who has joined EYC to help train staff and treatment teams on the utilization of Trauma-Informed Care practices and treatment. The Trauma-Informed Care Model has been incorporated into EYC’s individual, group and family therapy as well as general milieu management.

Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) is a strength-based practice which helps individuals who have experienced trauma deal with their trauma and understand subsequent changes to their bodies and minds. EYC treatment programs recognize the following TIC principles:

-The survivor’s need to be respected, informed, connected and hopeful regarding their own recovery.

-The interrelationship between trauma and symptoms of trauma (e.g. substance abuse, depression, anxiety)

-The need to focus on strengths and work collaboratively with survivors, their families and the community in order to empower victims and encourage participation in the healing process.

Jedd’s expertise will advance EYC’s ability to successfully apply TIC practices to our programs. Jedd has extensive experience working with children who exhibit significant behavioral problems.  He has worked with kids in treatment centers for 20 years and trains teachers and staff across the U.S. In an interview with Jedd he opened up about his feelings regarding TIC practices and how it relates to our girls at EYC.

What does TIC look like to you?

People think a lot of different things when they hear ‘Trauma-Informed Care’ and there are plenty who know more about it than I do. But I think in terms of dealing with kids from a place of understanding – understanding that our kids have been through trauma and that trauma affects their brains and development. When we think about it in this light, we tend to be more empathetic and less threatening when dealing with these kids.

Why do you think TIC works?

It works because when kids feel safe, they make better decisions. When we sense a threat, our brains switch to the least rational part. When brains don’t feel safe, they can’t learn and they can’t do therapy; they can only respond to the threat. (Think ‘fight or flight’). So, by helping kids feel safer, we send their brains into a better place for decision-making. As humans, we respond best to people who meet our needs. And the need to feel safe takes precedence over other needs.

In what direction do you see TIC moving in five years? (Perhaps it is a fad? Or does it have staying power?)

I don’t think TIC is a fad. It is based on principles that have been working for a long time. The most effective people I know are great at earning kids’ trust – making them feel safe and responding with empathy instead of wrath. Names may change, but what works remains the same.

How do you manage clients’ behavioral consequences with the TIC model?

First, we wait for conflict resolution so that we are dealing with a regulated (calm) brain. We (kids AND adults) get smarter as we become calmer. We ignore the myth that consequences should be handed out in the heat of the moment. After everybody calms down and has a chance to get some perspective, our consequences tend to be more logical and less punitive. For example, as a consequence we may take away a privilege or nonessential item, but will often provide an opportunity to earn it back. This adds a restorative element to the consequence. In the end, discipline is about LEARNING – not about making people feel punished. Relationship comes into play a lot. If I have a good relationship with a young person, I can ask them how they’re going to make it right and often get a great answer.  There is still accountability. There is still cause and effect. The difference tends to be when (later) and how (with empathy) the problem gets solved.

Some believe TIC is not applicable in the ‘real world’.  How do you move past this thinking and encourage staff to utilize this form of milieu management?

That’s a great question because I am all about preparing kids for success out in the real world. My analogy goes like this: If I was told that a girl needed to be able to run while she is in treatment, I would respond – Yes, but right now she has a broken leg. She needs to heal. Then she can get stronger, walk, and eventually run.

Trauma has caused real damage. There needs to be a baseline of safety and healing. Eventually, this girl won’t need this type or level of care. For now, it’s about healing some damage before we can fully build the real world skills and resiliency she will need.

To read more about Trauma-Informed Care at Excelsior, click here

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