As a therapist, you try to approach your work from a trauma-informed lens. This means that you provide a safe space where clients can trust you. You are transparent and set clear boundaries and expectations. You collaborate with your clients and empower them to use their voice and make choices.
Trauma-informed care in therapy is crucial. Most people have experienced trauma of some kind. The key in trauma-informed care is to approach each of your clients as if they have experienced trauma.
The language that you use with your clients is important. Trauma-informed language includes using words that don’t trigger your clients. In fact, the word “trigger” can be triggering, for lack of a better word. It’s tied to shooting a gun, and many people have been victims of gun violence.
You know this. You practice trauma-informed care and trauma-informed language all the time in therapy. But what about when you write?
It’s incredibly important when writing about mental health that you use trauma-informed language. The reason is that it’s not just about how you talk to your clients. It’s important to use trauma-informed language when speaking with your colleagues. You also want to make sure that the language on your website and in your blogs and emails is trauma-informed.
What’s the key to making sure this is the case? Hire a mental health copywriter who understands trauma-informed language and care. Better yet, hire a mental health copywriter who is also a mental health professional who has practiced trauma-informed care.
What Is Trauma-Informed Language?
By this point you’ve acknowledged that you need a mental health copywriter because you don’t have time to write your website, blogs, newsletters, emails, and everything else that markets your business. But you want to make sure that your copywriter understands trauma-informed language.
There are a few ways to use trauma informed language in your writing:
1. Avoid aggressive and objectifying language
You know better than anyone that aggressive and objectifying language is an obvious no-no. Your trauma-informed language should make your readers feel safe, not attacked.
2. Be careful when talking about violence and abuse
When writing about difficult subjects, it’s important to be careful about how you talk about violence and abuse. While these are key topics in therapy, they can be very difficult to read about and must be written with care. Don’t get graphic or specific, unless absolutely necessary. And if it is necessary, write a disclaimer. It’s ok to use the words “abuse” and “assault,” but make sure they are handled with care. Don’t go into specifics unless you have to.
3. Addressing self-harm and suicidal ideation
Self-harm and suicidal ideation are two other topics that can be difficult to write about. An important rule in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) groups is that when talking about self-harm or suicidal ideation, you can say that you had those thoughts or that you self-harmed. You’re not allowed to talk about the details. That won’t always work if you’re writing about these topics. But if you do write about self-harm and suicidal ideation, keep it trauma-informed. Provide resources people can use if they are feeling suicidal or contemplating self-harm.
4. Be mindful of word choice
Something else to consider when writing with trauma-informed language is the actual words you use. I mentioned the word “trigger” earlier, but there are others. Try not to tell someone to “take a stab” at something, for example.  Be aware of the language you use and your word choice.
5. Don’t be judgmental
Another way to use trauma-informed language in your writing is not to be judgmental. Even though a blog or social media post isn’t therapy, you’re speaking to a vulnerable audience. You wouldn’t pass judgment on your clients in session, so don’t do it in your writing.
6. Avoid command statements
Trauma-informed language can also take the form of statements that provide the reader with options rather than telling them what to do. I’m currently using command statements throughout this blog because I want you to do something very specific. But if you’re speaking to readers that are clients or potential clients, give them options. “If you feel comfortable…” or “when you’re ready…” are great places to start.
Writing For Your Audience Using Trauma-Informed Language
Whether your audience is your clients or other mental health professionals, the same rules apply when it comes to language. If you wouldn’t say it to your clients, don’t say it in your writing. Clients are reading what you write, and we all know the power of the written word.
The same goes for writing for other mental health professionals. Model what trauma-informed language looks like in the written form. Be a leader in using trauma-informed language. Use social media, including LinkedIn, to set an example of how to be trauma-informed in your language.
If you know your audience, your language will reflect that. So be aware of who your readers are. If you’re writing LinkedIn posts, you’re probably writing to other therapists. Blogs on your website are most likely geared towards clients and potential clients, although not always. Other mental health professionals may be finding your writing and learning from you. Be a thought leader. Be a role-model in the way you speak. But trauma-informed.
Trauma-Informed Language For All
I can’t stress enough that the words you use matter. Because trauma-informed care assumes that every client has experienced some sort of trauma, be aware of how you speak to them, both online and in-person.
Just as you would in your practice, make your writing a safe space for your readers. Establish trust. Build a rapport. You absolutely can do this through your writing, especially if you’re using social media to connect with clients or potential clients. Actually, you can do this if you’re hoping to connect with other mental health professionals, too.
Find the Right Mental Health Copywriter
An important piece to the puzzle of trauma-informed language in your writing is having the right copywriter. You want to make sure your copywriter understands what trauma-informed care and trauma-informed language is. Ideally, you hire someone like me who is also a trauma-informed therapist.
If you’re ready to take the next step and talk about how I can help you, contact me to set up a free discovery call. We’ll talk about how we can use trauma-informed language in your writing.