A couple of days ago, I published an Instagram deck that created a bit of a stir – I will add it here so you get a better idea of what I am referring to.
The response to this post was overwhelmingly positive, which left me a bit overwhelmed 🙂
It got me thinking though
It got me thinking about inviting trauma into our studio spaces by saying “out loud”, in our marketing, we are trauma-informed. And it might really surprise you to hear that from someone like me, who has spent years on becoming a therapist, and who regularly works with people who have experienced trauma.
I obviously made a conscious choice to support people who are going through a period of poor mental health/emotional wellness: I work with them as a therapist or therapeutic coach.
Scope of practice: They come to sing…
It already looks a bit different when they come to me for voice lessons. I have clear rules that there won’t be any therapeutic or trauma-resolution work in my voice lessons. Naturally, singing can be therapeutic in its own way, and it’s wonderful if that happens through the sheer power of music. It is simply scope of practice, and answering the question: “Why did you come to me in the first place?” Naturally, the human experience is never straightforward, and things might change. Most of my students know my background, and whether I like it or not: It does change the dynamics. But there is always scope to change the working relationship, or to refer to a colleague (be that a voice teacher or a therapist) should this become necessary.
However, I am specifically thinking about performing arts teachers who use “trauma-informed” in their marketing, generally with good intentions. There are also those who just use it because they know it sells, and it troubles me greatly, but that’s a different topic.
The elephant in the room
Even with those good intentions, I often wonder if we should really mention the word “trauma” when we advertise voice/music/performing arts lessons (not music therapy, or any type of therapeutic intervention, that’s completely different). I understand the wish to show our potential clients that we are inclusive, empathetic and considerate, but I often wonder if by mentioning “trauma’, we invite it into our sessions.
By this, I mean that many of our clients will not necessarily understand the difference between trauma-aware, trauma-sensitive, trauma-responsive or trauma-informed. They won’t know what staying boundaried entails, or that we don’t necessarily offer support with trauma-resolution. And this will change the dynamics of our working relationship, consciously or subconsciously. Trauma is now “in the room”, and the student might, again consciously or subconsciously, choose to disclose, or seek resolution.
In some cases, this might be welcome. In others, it might not. Or it has implications we might not have thought through fully, or we aren’t really equipped to handle.
My wonderful colleague and friend Alison Jane Taylor has put into words, beautifully and compassionately, the risks of using trauma in our marketing in this post (check out her work if you don’t already know her):
Questions that need honest answers…
If we advertise ourselves as trauma-informed, what do we base it on?
- Our own experience?
- Reading books about trauma/PTSD/cPTSD?
- A weekend course/class?
- Ongoing training with a practical/supervision element?
The litmus test is: Did you not only learn about trauma in theory, but did you also learn safety and containment strategies, and did you learn to apply them PRACTICALLY?
1-3 are great starting points: I recommend every teacher does 2 and 3, and I offer training in 3 myself. However, I also make it very clear that this is the absolute beginning of the journey. 1-3 are not enough, IMHO, to call ourselves trauma-informed practitioners, because being trauma-informed includes being trauma-responsive by default. 1-3 makes us trauma-aware/sensitive at best, and that’s a massive difference.
Where am I going with this?
If you feel called to use the term “trauma-informed” in your marketing, my suggestion would be to ponder the above and following questions with honesty, and without ego.
Consider whether you want to invite trauma into your studio space, if you are truly qualified to do so and above all: If introducing the word “trauma“, in whatever capacity, is helpful for the majority of your clientele. Or if it maybe, just maybe, introduces dynamics into a voice lesson that don’t need to be there and might not be as helpful as we think.
Teachers need to be able to discuss these topics without fear or shame, and I welcome the openness with which mental health is discussed in several groups and fora. This is a form of professional discourse/development that’s absolutely necessary to serve our clients as best we can. In my opinion, however, that’s dramatically different from introducing trauma into our “offerings” – unless we are doing therapeutic work.
There’s one very simple truth: