Weaving Together Trauma-Informed Care, Self-Care, and Community Care


Trauma-informed care (TIC) and self-care are budding buzzwords in the mental health and allied health fields. Thanks to research about the social determinants of health and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), professionals are more interested in recognizing trauma and interrupting it in their clients/patients/participants, and are more willing to admit that they need to take care of themselves (aka self-care) better in order to avoid burnout and compassion fatigue.

This is great because people in helping professions are on the front lines of our social service systems, and they consistently have the highest rates of burnout, employee turnover, and stress-induced health issues.

But even with this momentum and interest, the public health crisis of trauma and its fallout has not slowed. That is evident with the rate of mass shootings, unequal access to basic resources, and high rates of mental illness diagnoses and psycho-pharmaceutical prescriptions. Our people are suffering.

So what’s missing?

At the Wisconsin Hawthorn Project (WHP), we recognize that the data and research about trauma is valid and important to recognize (TIC), and that we are accountable for taking responsibility of our own well-being (self-care), and that we cannot stop there.

We do not live in isolated vacuums. We know that what happens in our communities and our families and our relationships all have ripple effects on our lives. So we cannot do this alone.

For that reason, we go beyond the science and neuroscience of trauma, and beyond self-care, to integrate community care in embodied, relational practices. Community care goes beyond human relationships and requires engaging with the environment around us, too. Much of this relational practice happens with horses, nature, and in movement practices (i.e. aikido), because our bodies and ecosystems are full of metaphors on resilience and balance.

We live the difference. We practice holding space and engaging our authenticity and vulnerability. We partner with interdisciplinary agencies in order to identify the gaps that institutional silos have overlooked. We practice all of this in group settings and rely heavily on a cohort-based model in order to prepare people to go back into their organizations and communities with a new way of being that can transform difficult situations into workable ones.

That’s the heart of WHP, and core to the symbolism of the hawthorn itself.

Interested in joining the initiative? Attend a training, join a Learning Collaborative, or request site-based technical assistance!