Trauma-Informed Care in Mediation
BY LAURA ATHENS
Trauma can affect an individual’s physical, emotional, and cognitive well-being. In mediation, it is crucial to recognise the signs of trauma and adopt a trauma-informed approach to create a safe and empowering environment for all participants, says Laura Athens. By promoting healing, resilience, and avoiding retraumatisation, mediators can facilitate more effective conflict resolution and support those dealing with the lasting effects of trauma.
“The paradox of trauma is that it has both the power to destroy, and the power to transform and resurrect.” Peter A. Levine, Ph.D.
Most of us have faced trauma at some point in our lives. You may have lost a loved one in a tragic accident, confronted a life-threatening illness, coped with a disability, experienced physical, psychological, or sexual abuse, or survived a natural disaster. Tragedy can strike anytime and anywhere; it does not discriminate based on race, gender, religion, age, class or culture. No one is immune.
In practice, you may have encountered a client who struggled with a traumatic event and had difficulty moving forward. Parties who engage in mediation frequently have contended with trauma in the form of a divorce, an accident, an assault, malpractice, death of a loved one, loss of employment, or other injury. Litigation itself can be a traumatic experience forcing parties to relive the pain and anguish that led to the lawsuit.
In mediation, it is crucial for all participants to recognize the signs of trauma, its prevalence, and the detrimental impact it can have on an individual’s physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral functioning. It is also essential to learn strategies to facilitate healing and resilience.
Trauma has been defined as resulting from “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.” 
The three key components are the event(s), experience, and effects. The event may be a single, serious, event or exposure to a series of traumatic events. The experience of the event(s) varies according to the individual; two people exposed to the same event or series of events may experience and interpret these events in vastly different ways. The effects of the trauma may be immediate, delayed or long lasting and the impact ranges from minimal to pervasive and severe.
A variety of factors may shape how the traumatic event is experienced, for example, the individual’s age or developmental stage, physical or emotional health, previous exposure to trauma, cultural beliefs, and availability of social supports.