What Does It Mean to Be Trauma Informed?

What Does It Mean to Be Trauma Informed?

What does it mean to be trauma informed and why is this important for people who coach tobacco users?

Let me explain.

You’ve likely heard the term social determinants of health (SDOH).

SDOH are the non-medical factors that affect people’s health and quality of life. They can include education, healthcare, neighborhood/built environment, economic stability, and social and community context.

Each of these domains can impact or be impacted by the experience of trauma. Examples of traumas include childhood abuse, domestic violence, witnessing community violence, and neglect, to name a few.

Awareness and training in SDOH—and trauma in particular—have become important in our work with tobacco cessation as more people are comfortable sharing these experiences.

All SDOH factors can make it harder for people to quit smoking, vaping, and using nicotine. However, trauma specifically may cause individuals to smoke more heavily, to have higher levels of nicotine dependence, and to struggle with successfully quitting.

Stress vs. Trauma

People tend to lump many things into the category of “stress” when describing why they smoke, vape, and/or chew tobacco. But it really could be trauma that is affecting their use.

We carefully listen to distinguish between the two.

Stress is the body’s response to pressure. Everyday situations can cause stress, such as angry customers at work, kids fighting, and snarly traffic due to an accident.

Trauma, however, is the impact felt from high levels of frequent or prolonged toxic stress. And it can take a cumulative toll on an individual’s physical and mental health. Acute trauma, such as a sudden death of a loved one, can also take the same toll on an individual’s health.

All EX Coaches are trained to connect the dots between what members tell us and how these things affect their tobacco use. We focus on treating each member as a whole person and take a trauma-informed care approach when appropriate.

Specifically, what is trauma informed care?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list 6 guiding principles for trauma informed care.

6 Guiding Principles for Trauma Informed Care

Safety: Ensure individuals know they are safe in our care.

Trustworthiness & Transparency: Be clear in explaining the ways in which we can help individuals.

Peer Support: Find ways to connect individuals with shared experiences.

Collaboration & Mutuality: Collaborate with individuals in the effort to develop a treatment plan.

Empowerment & Choice: Encourage individuals to feel comfortable sharing their stories to take back control of their health.

Cultural, Historical & Gender Issues: Recognize any potential cultural, racial, gender or other biases that may affect how we treat individuals.

How EX Coaches apply CDC’s 6 guiding principles

Applying these principles requires constant attention, caring awareness, and sensitivity.

Here are a few examples of how EX Coaches for the EX Program apply these principles with members:

  • We provide a nonjudgmental, non-critical safe space for members to share their experiences. Using open-ended questions and reflections allow coaches to build rapport and develop trust so that we can have an honest and transparent conversation over chat about their tobacco use.
  • We are not prescriptive but rather collaborative when discussing their quitting plan. We offer choices to help people feel in control when quitting often feels like something out of their control.
  • We encourage members to engage in the EX Community for peer support.
  • We participate in ongoing training to recognize biases based on cultural, racial, gender, or other factors that could affect how we approach supporting members.

Abundant, positive feedback from our members shows this approach resonates. Here is a small sampling of feedback our EX Coaches have received from participants:

Positive feedback from our members

Learn more about our effective approach with helping all individuals who smoke, vape, and use nicotine to quit by visiting our Program page. Or contact us to start a conversation today.

Margaret LaPlante

EX Coach Lead

Margaret collaborates with the live chat team to ensure protocols are always current and research based. She trains the EX Coaches to get participants the help and medication support they need for a successful quit. Margaret has been delivering tobacco cessation coaching since 2004, helping others get the personalized help they need.

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