Alongside many colleagues, I have been at the heart of what continues to be an integration into all sectors, a level of understanding about the impact of trauma and what we can do about it. I have been doing this particular piece of work using this particular language (Trauma informed, Adversity, ACE’s) for around 6/7 years. It is a language for the experiences I have had personally and worked with professionally for decades and I welcome it because it crosses sectors, smashes down the wall of them and us and makes complexity accessible. It is a language that is compassionate, tender and connecting. But more importantly, it is an opportunity for us to show up in the world with courage, integrity and with empathy.

I have worked on this within Education (Early Years through to Post 16), within Social Care, Early Help, Fostering, Adoption, Police, Nurses, even GP’s! And of course, there has been the work I’ve done with Alcohol and Drug Services, Housing Services and Probation (Cherry, 2021). Every sector has been shown this opportunity and some of those with those sectors have taken it and others…not yet! I recognise that we are still very much on a spectrum that spans from early thinking around trauma, right the way through to services embracing the daily reflections and practices that are present when an organisation is culturally trauma-responsive and trauma infused (Treisman, 2021).

Wherever we are on that spectrum there are a few things missing that 2021 can seek to begin to address that supports the transformation required. We are yet to shift in the way that we need to which would enable us to create systems that are more likely to create a space for healing from trauma rather than add to the trauma that has already happened. We are not even close to that yet but I have no doubt in my mind that we are in a huge shift in just about every area. I am calling for us to have the deep courage needed to make full use of this time to change the way we think about our work with our brothers and sisters.

My suggestion is that the very first next shift that challenges the ‘old order’ is one that stops using the personal/professional dichotomy as a way of preventing deep work interpersonally and intersubjectively. This is a tough one because it is a language deeply embedded in systems and the training taken to access working in those systems. It makes a multitude of assumptions that fly in the face of what we know about the regularity of adversity in childhood (Felitti et al, 1998), the way that we become who we are (Eagleman, 2020) and recovery knowledge about how we can work with trauma for healing such as using DDP, PACE (Golding, Philips and Bomber, 2020).

The dichotomy of personal/professional is the same as them/us. It separates us within ourselves and it separates us from each other. It is the same place where judgment and disconnection reside, with self and with others. It is the place where ‘I’ the professional must silence ‘I’ the personal. In a toxic environment, it prevents the personal from being authentic. It prevents the personal from ‘doing the work’ and ‘modelling the model’. It closes the door on courageous boundaries because the professional can say to the personal, you are being unboundaried without any work about boundaries ever having to be undertaken.

Whether we fully show up or we simply turn up, we are still present. We are not a dichotomy. We are every person we’ve ever met, every experience we’ve ever had and we are the relationship we have had with the world (Eagleman, 2020). As we continue to dive more deeply into neuroscience, we learn that there is no me without you, there is no me separate from the world. There is no me showing up professionally without bringing my personal self. It is similar to that notion that research can be somehow subjective as if the very desire to ask the research question is not embedded in the person asking it; a notion that some still refuse to let go of today.

When we let go of the metaphorical lanyard that serves to distinguish the professional from the personal, then we will truly start to walk alongside one another with compassion, love and empathy. This is the work of 2021 and beyond!


CHERRY, L. (2021). CONVERSATIONS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE: Relationship-focused practice… from the frontline. S.l.: ROUTLEDGE.

Eagleman, D. (2020). Livewired. Toronto: Anchor Canada.

Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., Koss, M. P., & Marks, J. S. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14(4), 245–258.

Golding, K., Phillips, S. and Bomber, L. M. (2020). WORKING WITH RELATIONAL TRAUMA IN SCHOOLS: An educator’s guide to using dyadic developmental… practice. S.l.: JESSICA KINGSLEY.

TREISMAN, K. (2021). TREASURE BOX FOR CREATING TRAUMA-INFORMED ORGANIZATIONS: A ready-to-use resource for… trauma, adversity, and culturally informed, infuse. S.l.: JESSICA KINGSLEY.

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