Gathering helps front-line workers understand clients,’ and their own, trauma

Edmonton front-line workers gathered March 12-14 to deepen their understanding of trauma-informed practice in serving vulnerable clients at Trauma Informed Edmonton's 2019 Gathering. 

Over three days, nearly 150 people attended sessions at 3 different locations.

"We know that a significant portion of individuals before they are incarcerated for the first time have undergone a traumatic experience," said Madeleine Smith, Co-director of Community Initiatives at REACH Edmonton and member of the Trauma Informed Committee.

"Trauma has been part of their story so if we're looking at safety and safety for everyone and prevention for those whose lives are more vulnerable than other we must consider the root cause, and one of those is trauma."

The gathering is aimed at front-line workers and helping professionals who work with individuals who are at risk, experiencing vulnerabilities and marginalized.

Every day, each location had an elder on site to support the emotional journey that participants were going through, while dealing with some important, but sometimes triggering, material.

“It’s an event about addressing trauma which is one of the things I think the system’s failed to do in a really holistic and systematic way,” said Insp. Dan Jones of the Edmonton Police Service, who led a workshop at the gathering. “It’s about educating people on trauma, having a better understanding of it, looking at how trauma affects people and how people that work in the systems can actually have positive effects on individuals.”

The 2019 Gathering aimed to take the work of Trauma Informed Edmonton to the next level, engaging front-line workers in the emotional work of addressing their own trauma so they can better support their clients with trauma.

“We’ve had conferences in the past. And you know the turnout was great the subjects that we touched on were extraordinary. But we really wanted to take it that step further,” said Marlene Orr, Director of Stan Daniels Healing Centre and Chair of the Trauma Informed Committee.

“To help people to understand their own trauma. And how that can actually affect their work with individuals. Can become a barrier to a healthy working relationship, can become a barrier to working with clients in a way that they’re self-determining,” said Orr. “And also to be aware of the need to take care of ourselves. If we’re not healthy how can we help people to become healthy?”

Participants said they gained valuable knowledge and experience from attending the gathering.

“I feel like I can better support my staff to do the work that they need to do on the front line and that’s what matters,” said one participant who manages front-line staff. “I would say you’re building a foundation for service providers to understand what trauma informed training looks like. Coming together and sharing some foundational learnings around trauma.”

This event is organized by Trauma Informed Edmonton, a network of organizations and helping professionals aligning their efforts to deliver effective training and develop/distribute resources on trauma for front-line workers and policymakers.