Integrating Trauma Informed and Resilience Informed approaches

Trauma Informed approaches and Resilience Informed approaches may at first seem incongruous, both when applied to services or to research. This is because Trauma Informed approaches might be considered to work to a ‘deficit-based model’, meaning that to be traumatised is considered a deficit, that we seek to understand in order to alleviate or avoid its effects. Resilience Informed approaches on the other hand might be considered ‘asset-based’, as resilience – in any of its many guises and definitions – is considered a positive practice, experience or attribute. Bringing together these two types of approach offers a balanced approach – and isn’t the conceptual nightmare you might imagine. That’s because these two approaches are remarkably congruent in a few ways that I outline below.

First, both sets of principles foreground processes that facilitate the empowerment of individuals (and also communities in the case of resilience and social justice approaches). Second, and relatedly, both assume a context of adversity. Third, culture is highlighted in both – to define meaningful outcomes in the case of resilence and to recognise cultural legacies in relation to trauma. Last but not least, each acknowledges the existence of the other within their respective models. Resilience is a recognised component of trauma-informed approaches; the benefits of promoting resilience – albeit using an understanding of the term which is rather focused on the individual and their inner psychological world – is a key part of what trauma-informed care tries to do. Similarly, trauma is one of the types of adversity recognised in resilience-informed approaches. So, the pertinent question is not ‘how do you bring together such incongruous concepts?’ but rather ‘why do you need both terms when either could be considered redundant in the presence of the other?’

So, why not just use either the term ‘Trauma’ or the term ‘Resilience’ in these research principles and practice? We return here to the idea of balance, and the undeniably political dimension of research. Both these terms need to be salient, particularly to those undertaking research studies which don’t ostensibly appear to touch on either topics or communities where adversity is a defining factor. The use of TRIRPP as a term is a deliberately consciousness-raising act in other words (in fact it might even qualify as a ‘resilient move’ using Hart and colleagues; definition).

The other reason for using both terms is that trauma -informed and resilience informed-approaches have each been applied to research on their respective topics. This has demonstrated that, alongside similarities, considerable differences emerge in relation to these two approaches when it comes to translating those respective research principles into practice.This may in part speak to the thorny and somewhat under-examined topic of how exactly principles are translated into practice – something I’ll be blogging more about soon . I’ll also be blogging about these differences in research practice between trauma-informed approaches to research on the topic of trauma, and  resilience-informed approaches to research on the topic of resilience, where the overlaps and gaps lie, and how TRIRPP might provide the filler.