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Why does trauma awareness matter?

Because trauma is more prevalent than you may think. Situations which can lead to psychological trauma include single incidents (such as a natural disaster or life-threatening accident) or constant stressors (like interpersonal violence). Untreated, or unresolved, trauma can lead to hyper alertness, fear, numbness, depression and anxiety.

Understanding trauma matters, because you can do something about it. According to Blue Knot Foundation, you can apply trauma-informed principles in dealing with your clients by prioritising their safety (both physical and emotional), being trustworthy, giving them choice, encouraging collaboration and ensuring they feel empowered.

How does this look in practice? Maybe you’re a bank manager about to interview a customer applying for a personal loan. You know the customer needs the money because they have separated from their spouse and are contemplating divorce. 

Ask them if the temperature is okay and where they’d like to sit. Take them through the options available. Highlight the pros and cons of each loan variable with transparency. Ask them what their goals are and explain yours, so you are working with your client, rather than selling them the product which looks best on your sales report.

Being trauma-informed doesn’t mean approving the loan because you feel sorry for your client. The usual internal approval processes will, of course, apply. But if you operate with an awareness of trauma, even if you need to ultimately reject the loan, you can do so in an empathetic and understanding way.

And remember that trauma is not reserved for the financially-challenged.

Your favourite billionaire wealth services client may be driven to success by unresolved trauma resulting from an adverse childhood experience. While your client may not tell you this, they may unconsciously respond to your trauma-informed approach by trusting you with a larger share of their investment portfolio.

When you think about it, this way of interacting with clients is always appropriate, irrespective of your goals or theirs. Many of us may have been affected by trauma without even realising it. If we follow the principles of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment, we might just give our clients the respect and encouragement they need to heal. It’s hard to see a downside in that.

Blue Knot Foundation is the Australian National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma

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