I like the term trauma-informed care when describing a local church ministry that seeks to care for those struggling with posttraumatic stress. But what does being trauma-informed mean in a local church setting?

A clinical definition of being trauma-informed often means knowing any adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) a person encountered as a first step for treating ongoing mental health issues. The reason is that those with higher ACEs scores reveal significant experiences during their formative years as a child. Significant and adverse experiences have been determined to contribute to long term mental health issues and health problems among adults. Providing clients with an ACE Test during intake becomes an important tool for clinicians.

Within the context of the local church, I prefer to define trauma-informed care as having a foundational knowledge of posttraumatic stress (PTS), secondary traumatic stress (STS), moral injury (MI), and posttraumatic growth (PTG). I also recommend that a local congregation talk with and have a list of counselors in the area along with their knowledge of treatments like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and stellate ganglion block (SGB). It is also recommended to know how to connect veterans to peer-to-peer faith-based programs like Mighty Oaks Foundation, Joni and Friends Warrior Getaways, and REBOOT Recovery.

The purpose of a congregation having this foundational knowledge on trauma and various treatment programs is not to be viewed as a counseling center, but to walk alongside those struggling with PTS, STS, and MI. Understanding trauma also encourages local counselors that they have a valued and trusted partner in promoting mental health care in the community.

Being trauma-informed promotes a true holistic approach to trauma care for the individual and their family. Post-traumatic stress can impact the entire family and why the entire family must be included in the healing process. The local church is key here in that the local church contributes to the strengthening of relationships (family-congregation-community) while providing hope in the healing journey. Two areas that even clinicians understand and promote in mental health seminars as significant contributors in trauma recovery – relationships and hope!

Trauma-informed care for the local church is educationally focused to teach the congregation foundational knowledge on how traumatic stress impacts the entire person (mind, body, soul) and their family. Being trauma-informed takes nothing away from the person or work of God. Scripture even reveals how God used plants and mud in the treatment of significant issues. Understanding the human body, brain, and various treatments glorifies God’s goodness! Therefore learn about them and embrace evidence-based best practices while praising the Lord for His grace and comfort!

Trauma-informed care in a local church is not complicated. It is a commitment to understand PTS, STS, MI, and PTG for the sake of those in our community and those already in the pews who silently struggle with traumatic-stress related issues.

There is hope!

All the best!