"Trauma-Informed" has become quite the buzz word in social work and psychology. Trauma-informed care is the new gold standard for mental health services. It is based on principles of safety, trust, collaboration, agency, and empathy and offers a model of health and healing for staff and patients. If you are interested in learning more, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) has some great resources.

While I really appreciate the integration of trauma-informed approaches into healing services, this intervention falls short on its own. Although it has the best intentions, the label "trauma-informed" puts the emphasis on trauma and not as much on healing. "Trauma" is a loaded word and can elicit feelings, memories, and experiences of catastrophic events. "Healing," however, demonstrates people's resiliency in navigating and living in a world after such traumas.

My argument here is not completely original. Shawn Ginwright writes a compelling piece for Medium, titiled "The Future of Healing: Shifting From Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement." While Ginwright suggests a "shift" from trauma-informed to healing-centered care, I propose an "integration" of the two approaches. "Integration" is a very intentional word, as survivorship and resiliency from trauma often require the integration of trauma into one's life and not a shift from the traumatic event to the everyday lived experience.

So, what does this look like? A combination of trauma-informed and healing-centered approaches, care, and services may include:

- The recognition that trauma is not always an individual experience and that healing does not have to occur in isolation or a clinical setting. Systematic oppression (racism, classism, sexism, etc.) creates trauma. Healing can be a collective experience through alternative means to traditional therapy like activism, movement, breath, and art.

- A narrative shift that changes the question from "What happened to you?" to "What is right with you?; What strengths do you possess?" While trauma-informed care does promote empowerment, healing-centered engagement approaches empowerment from a strengths-based perspective.

- An emphasis on people being the agents of their wellbeing and not the victims of traumatic events. A trauma-informed and healing-centered approach recognizes healing and survivorship as a political act and not a clinical one. Survivors can gain ownership over their traumas by bringing their healing outside a medicalized and institutionalized space.

Thank you for taking the time to consider these approaches, and let me know what you think! You can comment below or contact me here.

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

First off, welcome to Designing Healing! I'm Brita Loeb, MSW and I am beyond excited to share with you the power of design and aesthetics to elicit positive human emotion and behavior. Not convinced? That's okay, explore my site, read the Healing by Design field guide, and let me know your questions or concerns. I would love to engage with you in thoughtful discussion!

Designing Healing is my new baby. I am not a mother (though I do dote on my cat, Sir Peter), but- like a baby- I am so thrilled to see how Designing Healing will thrive, grow, and have some bumps and falls along the way.

The concept for Designing Healing started in my Juvenile Justice class in grad school, in which my class was tasked at re-imaging the juvenile prison system through an idealized solution. My group and I decided to re-design group homes to foster healing through impactful aesthetics and thereby reduce incarceration for youth.

I didn't want to stop there. What other spaces could be redesigned- libraries, community centers, corporations, healthcare spaces, therapy rooms? Upon doing research, however, I realized it's not just about aesthetics, it's also about the design process as a whole.

Designing Healing is founded on five principles that we can all center in our lives: agency, collaboration, cultural humility, reflection, and safety and trust. Designing Healing asks that you take a pause and think about these principles and how they create more trauma-informed, healing-centered, and equitable spaces, services, and ideologies.

In this blog, I will go more in-depth on those principles and offer my thoughts, inspiration, and resources. I hope you enjoy this process as much as I do! Thank you for your support, and together we can heal by design

The Juvenile Justice class project that started this all!


And so it began...

My fur baby, Sir Peter