Defining a trauma-informed approach and figuring out how to put it into action has been a struggle since the inception of the term. At Origins, our answer to this predicament is simple (but not always easy)–a trauma-informed approach is a culture, not a checklist. In other words, this approach is less about what you do and more about how you are doing it. But culture can sometimes feel daunting and nebulous. How can we even get started?

Enter Aaron Scott. Scott is the Northern Training Manager for Burlington United Methodist Family Services, which offers a variety of community-based services, including two residential campuses, recovery support, and targeted case management throughout West Virginia. His experience offers some concrete tips on how to operationalize a trauma-informed culture. His approach speaks to two fundamental components of culture-building: creating a shared language and articulating concrete values.  


Scott is a certified Origins facilitator for Person-Centered Trauma-Informed Care (PCTIC). He participated in one of two cohorts of a train-the-trainer program facilitated by Origins and sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with the West Virginia Health Affairs Institute in Spring 2023. The goal of this program is to train Direct Care Professionals throughout the state on the foundational concepts of PCTIC. 


As part of his role, Scott is in charge of the training program for his agency. His core training program is a 9-10 day training curriculum that uses the PCTIC training as a foundation to establish a shared language and connect the dots among the various other trainings that are offered to staff, including trainings on motivational interviewing and de-escalation. In this model, the PCTIC training is the capstone training that ties together the skills and concepts that have been introduced throughout the training sequence. 


Instead of offering a variety of siloed trainings, PCTIC offers an overarching framework  connecting the various trainings. As an example, the de-escalation training introduces the idea of behavior as communication, one of the key concepts of PCTIC. Motivational interviewing establishes collaboration–one of the PCTIC principles–as a key to providing support for people expressing uncertainty about change. 


Through this integrated approach, Scott’s overall goal is focused on developing a culture rooted in the values of connection, consistency, and safety. With these values in mind, a key part of building the agency’s culture is about how staff come together and relate to one another during the training. Says Scott, “It’s not about memorization of the materials but application of the principles…there is a soul to this training.” This starts with the culture created within the training environment. 


PCTIC helps create connection–both externally with clients and internally among staff. Everyone comes to this work with different life experiences and different stressors. Both of these can affect how we respond in situations. PCTIC encourages us to view the behaviors of others (and our own behavior!) through this lens. Scott noted that this lens has led to an increase in his own patience with others–both inside and outside of the workplace. For example, he says “How do I handle the situation at McDonald’s when my order is running late.”


 Working alongside other humans to support other humans (we call this humaning) can help build this culture of connection, consistency, and safety. Says Scott, “This is how we can build an agency’s culture. You can train empathy.”


If you’re interested in learning more about The Basics: Train the Trainer program, click here to learn more or schedule a time to talk with us today.