February 19, 2020

Cascadia’s Trauma Support Team Guides Employees through Traumatic Experiences

Cascadia offers a trauma-informed approach to the care of our clients. So applying trauma-informed practices to support our employees is not only natural, it is necessary. An inherent reality of working in a behavioral health setting is the cumulative toll on those who are exposed to the suffering, hardship, crises, or trauma of others. Understanding that Cascadia employees – especially those in direct care roles – are often exposed to traumatic experiences in their work and everyday lives, Cascadia created a Trauma Support Team (TST) to help address challenges and provide consistent support for employees.

Created in 2016, TST members have assisted over 100 times, either by offering Psychological First Aid (PFA) immediately following a traumatic event, or Post Traumatic Stress Management (PTSM) groups shortly after a specific event or an accumulation of ongoing stressors. The resources provided by the TST are intended to help employees develop a deeper understanding of trauma exposure and the tools for reconciling such exposure, so individuals can do their work sustainably.

Cascadia’s TST consists of dozens of self-selected and trained Cascadia staff. Through a partnership with Riverside Trauma Center, Cascadia has trained 75 employees in PFA and PTSM intervention models and ensures TST members are trained to facilitate and offer support, whether they have a clinical background or not.

In addition to responding immediately to many incidents at Cascadia locations or with Cascadia programs, the TST offers both coping and self-care groups. Coping groups are generally provided within two weeks of a specific event, and are designed to normalize the wide range of responses and help identify coping strategies for individuals to use. Self-care groups can be offered anytime, and usually are initiated to respond to extended periods of stress. Through self-care groups, participants are encouraged to identify their personal narrative around how they came to this work, the challenging and rewarding aspects of their work, and identify personal self-care resources.

The TST has also provided external resources for Oregon’s communities in the past. The TST provided PFA support in response to a Portland General Electric explosion in 2016, and support at the Mt. Hood Evacuation Shelter during the Eagle Creek Fire evacuations of 2017.

The work being done by Cascadia employees is not easy, but it is crucial for the health and hope of our community. Everyone at Cascadia appreciates the dedication TST members have to supporting our employees and helping ensure their work is manageable and sustainable.