How to Be Trauma-Informed in Conversations

By: Jayson Tripp, MD


For individuals who suffer from PTSD, trauma can make it difficult to open up about what they need to begin their healing process. Being trauma-informed in everyday conversations provides a more empathetic opportunity to engage with loved ones. Before you approach a conversation with someone who struggles with PTSD, here are a few ways you can strive to have a trauma-informed interaction.

Trauma Comes in Many Forms

Before we discuss how to be trauma-informed, it’s important to keep in mind that trauma is not one-size-fits-all. PTSD means something different to everyone. It can be triggered by any number of difficult experiences, and it uniquely affects each person it touches. Many people find that their feelings, thought processes, and behavior are heavily influenced by their trauma after a traumatic event. Because every individual reacts to and processes trauma differently, take time to learn how your loved one interacts with their trauma so that you can be a positive influence in their path to healing.

What Does It Mean to Be Trauma-Informed

Being trauma-informed means recognizing an individual’s history and needs to approach conversations about trauma with respect for their experience. Rather than asking questions like “what’s wrong with you, why are you acting like this?” ask “what happened to you, and how can I help?” Even though you may not truly understand how they feel, you can still be a source of comfort for them. A trauma-informed mindset allows you to respond with compassion instead of frustration.

How to Engage in Trauma-Informed Conversation

Engaging in a trauma-informed conversation does not require questioning someone about their traumatic experiences or making their trauma the focus of discussion. Instead, focus on being there to support them as you consider their journey. Here are a few tips on how to have a meaningful conversation about trauma:

  • Don’t Force Them to Talk

You should never force someone to talk about their trauma. Pressuring someone to talk about their past before they’re ready can often re-traumatize them. Avoid pushing and prodding them for answers; take the interaction at their pace and be patient if they need to take a break.

  • Listen to Them

If your loved one feels comfortable with the conversation, allow them to talk about their experience without interruption. Listen intently to their needs, make them feel heard, and attempt to understand rather than focus on your response.

  • Create a Safe Space

It’s impossible to build trust in a space that fosters judgment or resentment, especially for someone who has decided to discuss an emotionally charged experience. Create a safe space with them where they can speak about their trauma without fear of scorn. You may want to find a quiet area where you can converse in private and ensure that they are comfortable.

  • Ask What You Can Do to Help Them

Instead of asking probing questions, ask how you can best help your loved one with their PTSD. Some people find comfort in discussing their trauma, some need space, and others seek help to relax. The most helpful thing you can offer them is your support.

  • Understand Triggers

Trauma can be difficult to discuss for individuals who believe that their triggers are unwarranted. Triggers are often unavoidable and uncontrollable, and they are never the victim’s fault. Be patient with your loved one and try to educate yourself on how you can best understand their triggers.

  • Don’t Invalidate Their Trauma

Saying that a loved one’s trauma could be worse or that they should just “get over it” will only chip away at their self-esteem. Never blame them for their trauma or act like it is inconsequential. Instead, help them to see that their emotions matter and that their trauma is valid. Showing them the respect will cultivate trust and positivity in your relationship.

Trauma is difficult to overcome alone. Practicing trauma-informed care in your conversations can help to develop a trusting relationship and assist your loved one with their journey to take their life back from their trauma. If you or someone you know is in search of help with the struggle against PTSD, know that you are not alone. Contact us at Serenity Mental Health Centers to discuss treatment options.

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*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.