In the era of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are all more aware than ever before of the devastation caused by situations that threaten our sense of personal safety, freedom and survival, potentially leading to trauma.
Here we share a little about the concept of trauma-informed practice and its application in aquatics including in swim schools, swimming lessons and swim squads.
Where does this come from?
The term trauma-informed practice has emerged in recent years in response to the explosion in scientific knowledge of how trauma is caused and the harmful short and long terms impacts on people’s wellbeing, behaviour and life outcomes.
What is it?
Trauma-informed practice describes an approach to conducting all activities such that the risk of inadvertently causing trauma or retraumisation for anyone is minimised. It takes into account the possibility that many people have experienced traumatic situations in their life, that we or even they, may be unaware of. (1)
How does this relate to the swim school?
A swim school is therefore trauma-informed if all staff members including leadership, customer service, swim teachers and coaches, along with parents and caregivers are informed about, sensitive and responsive to, trauma-related issues.
Trauma-Informed Practice Views through a Trauma-Informed Lens
When someone is trauma-informed, they are able to see behaviour in a whole new light. Some people describe it as like looking through a camera lens or putting on a pair of glasses that completely transforms the way of seeing and interpreting a person’s behaviour. Others describe it as like learning a whole new language.
Questions to ask?
When viewing behaviour through a trauma-informed lens, we ask questions such as, “what has happened to you?” and “what do you need right now to help you feel safer?” rather than, “what is wrong with you”, and “how can I shame, blame or punish you for this behaviour to make it stop?”
The Core Principles Involved in Trauma-Informed Practice
Trauma-informed practice involves a strengths-based framework based on five core principles, being;
- Safety (physical, emotional, psychological)
- Trustworthiness (transparency)
- Choice (consent)
and underpinned by respect for diversity in all its forms.
These principles operate at all levels within the swim school. They are intended to empower individuals, generate a sense of interpersonal safety and help prevent inadvertently causing trauma and/or retraumatisation. (1,2)
Why is trauma-informed practice important?
Trauma-informed practice helps us to: First, Do No Harm
Becoming trauma-informed is one of the most worthwhile investments you can make for yourself and those you care for and engage with on a daily basis. As you learn the language of trauma, you will learn to read body language and people’s reactions including your own, in a whole new light.
You will also develop a new vocabulary for describing what you see and experience. For example, phrases like “she’s just being difficult, strong-willed, naughty or stubborn” become , “she’s feeling unsafe at the moment”, which in turn can influence the way you respond.
Trauma-informed aquatics is applicable for anyone involved in aquatics including staff, educators, parents and caregivers. The valuable knowledge and skills learned are transferable to interpersonal interactions in other contexts too, which is an added bonus.
WWSS and Trauma-Informed Aquatics are partners in offering education in trauma-informed practice for the aquatics industry.
If you would like to learn more about trauma-informed practice in aquatics and begin the professional development pathway to becoming a trauma-informed aquatics professional, please click here.
- Kezelman, C.A. & Stavropolous, P.A. (2020). Blue Knot Foundation 2020 Organisational Guidelines for Trauma-Informed Service Delivery. Retrieved 3 Nov 2021, from https://blueknot.org.au/resources/blue-knot-publications/guidelines/
- Harris, M., & Fallot, R. D. (2001). Envisioning a trauma-informed service system: A vital paradigm shift. In M. Harris & R. D. Fallot (Eds.), Using trauma theory to design service systems (pp. 3–22). Jossey-Bass/Wiley.
- Van der Kolk, B. (2000). Posttraumatic stress disorder and the nature of trauma. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2000;2(1):7-22.
To find out more information about Trauma Informed Aquatics contact us here.