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Trauma-informed Eval Week: The Inherent Healing-Centered Nature of Trauma-Informed Care by Pamela “Denise” Long

Pamela “Denise” Long
Pamela “Denise” Long

My name is Denise Long, MS, BHS, OT, Doctor of Education Candidate in organizational leadership/development and adjunct faculty at Southern Illinois University. Over the last 6 years, I’ve studied, written, and worked in the areas of trauma-informed care (TIC), resilience, evaluation, and anti-racism. My dissertation research focuses on executive leadership of institutional racial equity. As a health care practitioner and trainer about trauma-informed practices and racial equity, I advocate that the heart of TIC work must be rooted in the potential to help people heal from the past and humanize the systems that serve us. This blog post and resources will address the healing-centered nature of equity-focused trauma-informed care and evaluators’ role in facilitating healing.

Healing and Equity Are Not Optional in TIC

The healing-centered perspective of TIC and trauma-informed evaluation is radical. It is a complete paradigm shift. Firstly, it suggests that all health and human service systems should and must change to redress (rather than merely serve) the adverse developmental experiences and historical traumas of people. Secondly, the explicit naming of racism and historical trauma (anti-Black racism in particular) defies our national narrative about how to value the past. In this, the healing-centered perspective challenges how to qualify present day citizens’ responsibilities, given the ubiquitous benefits from historical oppression and enslavement. Thirdly, it affirms that evaluators have a responsibility to advocate for changes in the practices of health and human service programs. A practitioner of any kind cannot be “trauma-informed” without including what is needed to heal the harm that has been caused and prevent future trauma from occurring. These calls to action can create discomfort in both the evaluator and the evaluation client.

Evaluating the Impact of Un/Readiness and/or In/Ability

Racial healing is often stalled because of resistance and fragility toward addressing difficult topics. In Using a Principles?Focused Evaluation Approach to Evaluate Coalitions and Collaboratives Working Toward Equity and Social Justice, Susan Wolfe, Kyrah Brown and I clarified that equity-focused efforts must not cater to discomfort about discussing racism and inequity. Instead, we suggest that evaluators must assess the impact discomfort has on the people served, program implementers, and program outcomes. To focus on healing as an outcome, trauma-informed evaluation must account for the impact of program stakeholders’ relative in/ability and/or un/readiness to confront and correct inequitable dynamics. Evaluators’ ability to facilitate healing requires us to create and implement processes that represent un/readiness and in/ability, quantitatively and qualitatively. Building capacity to facilitate healing requires evaluators to also engage in a journey of healing our traumas. This includes acknowledging and repairing the ways adversities and historical traumas have shaped our identities and equity-supporting consciousness.

Rad Resources:

Become a change agent by understanding and healing personal and collective trauma. 

The Future of Healing: Shifting From Trauma-informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement by Shawn Ginwright Ph.D.

My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathways to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem

FIE TIG Week: Can Evaluation Touch Your Heart? Trauma-Informed and Healing-Centered Practice…and Feminism by Allison Shurilla and Vidhya Shanker

This week, AEA365 is hosting Trauma-informed Eval Week during which blog authors share lessons from and principles of trauma-informed evaluation. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 thoughts on “Trauma-informed Eval Week: The Inherent Healing-Centered Nature of Trauma-Informed Care by Pamela “Denise” Long”

  1. Hi Denise,

    Thank you so much for discussing this very pertinent topic within evaluation practices. I am a high school teacher and I have attended trauma-informed professional development seminars that aim to provide teachers with tools needed to support students who have experienced trauma. I agree that evaluators must consider trauma-informed care when collecting and analyzing qualitative and quantitative program data.

    I appreciate the resource you shared by Shawn Ginwright on the “Future of Healing”. It really extends my thinking when I consider how my classroom practice should involve healing approaches rather than just recognizing the signs of trauma and offering support through counselling services. In this regard, I think it is so important to consider the root causes of trauma and work together as a whole school community to help individuals heal. Historical trauma certainly affects our students, teachers and the school system as a whole. Opening up the conversation regarding these issues is such a worthwhile endeavor.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insight.


    1. Hi Lindsay,

      Thank you for your feedback! I’m glad to hear the blog post and resources were helpful to you. Education plays such a critical role in helping students and families heal. The implementation of trauma informed care is an opportunity. It’s a chance for the local school district to become an even more responsive partner and cornerstone of strong communities.

      Enjoy the remainder of your school year!

      P.S. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn where I write additional implementation insights and critiques.

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