KairosWWT | Women Working Together

Trauma Informed Practice Training with Dr Jessica Taylor & Kairos Women Working Together

At Kairos Women Working Together, we support women to live positive lives free from exploitation. Our mission is to increase the safety, stability, and self belief of women in Coventry, who are subject to or are at risk of sexual exploitation, through emotional and practical support, advocacy and awareness raising. At Kairos WWT, we adopt a trauma informed approach, which we believe is fundamental to helping us achieve our aims.

With funding support from Homeless Link (Tampon Tax), Kairos WWT partnered with Coventry Haven Women’s Aid to deliver the ‘A Home of Her Own’ project, which provides support to women affected by or at risk of homelessness. As part of this project, Kairos WWT  had the opportunity to undertake several intensive training sessions with Dr Jessica Taylor on true Trauma Informed Practice. This has been an incredible journey as a team, which has challenged and shaped our professional practice and organisational approach.

Dr Jessica Taylor (FRSA, PhD) is the founder of VictimFocus, an international research, teaching and consultancy organisation that has the aim of challenging the victim blaming and pathologisation of women and girls subjected to violence and abuse. Dr Taylor utilises a trauma-informed and strengths-based approach in all of her work and research, and our training focussed on what it means to be truly trauma-informed, from theory to practice.

For more information about Dr Taylor and Victimfocus, go to https://www.drjessicataylor.com/ and https://www.victimfocus.org.uk/.

The training provided an overview of the history and growth of the medical model of psychiatry, how women who have been subjected to violence and abuse have been victim blamed and pathologised throughout history, the differences between the social model and the medical model and how a strengths based, non pathologising, non victim blaming approach based on the social model forms the foundation of true trauma informed practice. As a team we examined case studies, taking a critical look at the impact the medical model, pathologisation and medication has on women and, importantly, how viewing the same situations through the lens of the social model changes the understanding of the situation, resulting in a positive, trauma informed response. We examined language used by ourselves and other professionals and the impact this can have. We explored and critiqued other models such as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), discussed the impact of our personal and vicarious trauma on our practice and we became more aware of our own personal and professional biases. As a team, we critically explored our own work with the women we support, which has left us eager to continue to reflect, develop our knowledge and continually improve our practice.

The women we support overwhelmingly report that they have been subjected to violence and abuse, historically and currently, often repeatedly. We learned that distress and “poor” or “harmful” coping strategies as a result of trauma are perfectly natural and logical responses, given what the women have been subjected to. Yet, women are so often defined by labels or diagnoses , which can then stay with them for life, influences the way that services respond to and engage with them and can even be used against them. This training has equipped us to better advocate for women and to challenge their pathologisation.

We noted that in our current system these labels often provide the gateway to other support services, which require certain diagnoses as part of an eligibility criteria, therefore systemic change is needed. This realisation has left us motivated and more committed to being a beacon of good practice and championing true trauma informed practice within Coventry and beyond.

We were therefore delighted to be able to host a full day of training by Dr Jessica Taylor for our partners and other professionals from Coventry and surrounding areas. Feeling motivated and inspired to champion trauma informed practice, we wanted to share this day with as many professionals and organisations as possible, to get the message far and wide. We were thrilled to have such a great turn out, with 66 professionals from partner organisations such as Coventry Haven Women’s Aid, CRASAC, Foleshill Women’s Training, Embrace, The Anchor Centre, Birmingham’s Anawim, Change Grow Live (CGL), as well as representatives from police, local authority including social care and the NHS.

It was an excellent day, full of lively discussion, providing an overview on the history and theory behind the Trauma Informed Approach, a critique of ACEs, as well as some discussion around practical application. It challenged all of us at some point, made us question our thinking and own practice, and left us feeling inspired, encouraged and eager to incorporate this in to our own practice and organisations.

It was a pleasure to host and the positive feedback from training participants was overwhelming. There are many professionals and organisations keen to champion true trauma informed practice, which is truly exciting. We hope to see Coventry’s own Trauma Informed Network come alive soon. Please get in touch with us if you are interested in joining.

Feedback from participants:

“Very grateful for today – I’ve been on other trauma-informed training and ended up frustrated and disappointed… so I’m really glad to be inspired and encouraged by everything today! Really fab!”

“Just participated in a really informative and thought provoking training day hosted by Kairos WWT by Dr Jessica Taylor. Thoroughly recommend checking out her work and books, as will challenge the way you approach supporting victims of trauma. Thank you for today, I’ve learnt a lot and good to see so many participants sharing ideas.”

“Thank you for today. As a DC investigating serious sexual offences, both live and historical, it was very informative and eye opening to see how the language used could affect victims.”

“Think a network of trauma-informed allies in Cov/local area sounds fab!”