Strengthening TIP with Trauma-Informed Care

by Wayne Munchel, LCSW   0 Comments

The Transition to Independence Process (TIP) Model has recently been enhanced to better address the pervasive and profound impacts of traumatic stress on youth and young adults. In the Transitions Handbook (Clark & Unruh 2009), Marc Fagan PhD and I made the following comment about the tragic prevalence of trauma related disorders in the transition age youth population: “Although multiple diagnoses are the norm in the TAY service populations, the most common denominator is the indelible impact of trauma.” In recognition of this emerging issue in emerging adults, the TIP model has infused trauma informed care principles and practices into its approach.

The incorporation of trauma informed care into the TIP model is designed to better equip practitioners who are working with this challenged and challenging group of vulnerable young people. The need is great. For the many system involved youth aging out of care, the demand for trauma specific interventions is particularly urgent.

Establishing a caring relationship has always been foundational to the TIP model. Adding the trauma-informed care perspective of “what’s happened to you?” rather than “what’s wrong with you?” can go a long way in building rapport. The TIP model also emphasizes the importance of personal choice and responsibility in the lives of young people. While they are never to be blamed for the horrific experiences they have survived, it is a critical time to begin developing their resiliency and improved coping strategies, future plans and self-understanding. Educating them about trauma impacts helps empower them to fully realize that recovery and healing are possible and can be achieved through their hard work. Peer Mentors can often play a crucial part in inspiring hope, modeling resiliency and supporting them on their journey.

Rather than introducing new Core Practices to the TIP tool-kit, we opted to amplify and re-purpose existing interventions. Strength-Discovery now includes materials to promote compassionate self-talk in young people (Strength Talk) to alter the toxic and self-negating thought processes that are so common in traumatized youth. The Prevention Planning approach known as “Whatsup?” elicits an understanding of “what’s working and what’s not” in their current coping repertoires, that may include substance abuse, cutting and overeating. This gives occasion for the young person to consider alternative, healthier means for tolerating distress. Most importantly, is the focused use of In-Vivo coaching to teach self-management skills. Emotional dysregulation is frequently a central barrier to success in the TIP domains of education, employment and housing. Whether getting along with new roommates and co-workers, or responding to the demands of employers and teachers, the ability to self-soothe and recognize triggers is imperative.

There is an increasing emphasis on implementing trauma-informed care and transform mental health systems nationwide. This mandate is critically important for agencies who serve and support young people with emotional and behavioral disturbances, if not more so. The TIP model seeks to advance this effort by ensuring that TAY providers have the right tools for the task.

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