Reflections about Person-Centered Trauma-Informed Workshop that I Gave in Atlanta Last Week

This past week I gave a two-day workshop for JF&CS in Atlanta, GA, focused on Person-Centered Trauma-Informed Care. The workshop included a presentation to clinical staff, an agency-wide presentation to administrative staff and all those who come in contact with the service consumers, such as receptionists, drivers, and all other staff members, a supervision session with the team who works specifically with Holocaust survivors, a meeting with the “Second Generation” (adult children of Holocaust survivors), and a “Train the Trainer” presentation to professionals who lead teams in other social service agencies in the community. Some more information is available from the Facebook page of JF&CS Atlanta GA.

Over two days, I gave a total of five different presentations to a variety of audiences:

  1. A two-hour presentation for clinical staff about the prevalence, impact and responses to various traumatic experiences. The presentation elaborated how a history of traumatic experiences in prior years might interact and affect the elderly survivors when they come to need our services.
  2. A one-hour agency-wide presentation about potential difficult interactions with trauma survivors and the connections between their responses to past traumatic experiences.
  3. A two-hour supervision session with the team of professionals working specifically with Holocaust survivors, discussing particular issues related to experiences of surviving extreme genocidal trauma, the unique issues of Holocaust survivors from the former USSR, and characteristic features of the family relationships and dynamics between survivors and their adult children.
  4. A two-hour meeting with a group of adult children of Holocaust survivors from the community.
  5. A two-hour “Train the Trainer” session for the professionals from a variety of agencies in the community, who will use the training to further train staff in their own agencies about the particular potential sensitivities of trauma survivors and the ways to be aware of these and be able to de-escalate negative interactions.

It was a great honor to be given the opportunity to share my deep personal passion for care of survivors of trauma, and for the aging population of elderly Holocaust survivors, with the different groups that attended the training organized by JF&CS Atlanta. Empirical studies show that professional healthcare providers, including physicians, psychologists, social workers, nursing and para-medical staff, often find trauma survivors to be difficult patients and working with them can be experienced as hopeless, leading to demoralization in staff and a wish to resign. Studies also show that, when the staff feels that their agency and supervisors care about them and when education is provided about the history of the patients and why they might be exhibiting difficult behaviors at times, staff expresses more understanding, more compassion, and less wish to leave the job.

I am grateful to JS&CS Atlanta for the opportunity and for their gracious hospitality, and I deeply hope that the training will help healthcare providers from various diverse backgrounds become aware of the need to learn about patients’ traumatic histories. I also hope that the training will allow individual providers and leaders of agencies to recognize the traumatic histories of many staff members, so the painful past of both patients and providers can be dealt with respectfully and compassionately.

                 Irit Felsen

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