In this short series of exploring trauma informed ways of being, we are being invited to think about developing what it is that sits behind was has been termed Trauma Informed Practice (TIP).

#1 started us off with sitting in a place of love and curiosity, not fear and judgement
#2 helped us think more about awareness

Setting the scene in thinking about TIP, each post in this series will remind us what the 6 guiding trauma informed principles are that have been developed by the CDC and SAMSHA. These are:

Trustworthiness & transparency
Peer support
Collaboration & mutuality
Empowerment & choice
Cultural, historical & gender issues

For #3 I’m going to ask us to think about the dance between reflection and action. I hear people say firmly “we need more action” and others say “we need more reflection” but the reality is that the two work most effectively when we see them as something that we do together. They are not an either/or dichotomy.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

What does it mean to bring reflection into practice? I would need to write an essay to fully share the extensive literature on this subject! But these posts are meant to stimulate thinking not be a module on an entire subject! So I will simply share that along with my thinking about TIP being about ‘way of being’, there is a model in Social Work practice that looks at how we blend thinking, doing and being in our work (Pawar & Anscombe, 2015).

Drawing from Dewey’s Reflective Learning Model, Gibbs (1988) expands the model and suggests these questions as a guide for us to help with reflection which I think are a good example of how we can support reflective thinking:

  • What happened (description)
  • What were you thinking and feeling (feelings)
  • What was good and bad about the experience (evaluation)
  • What sense can you make of the situation (analysis)
  • What else could you have done (conclusion)
  • If it arose again, what would you do (action plan)

What do we mean by action?

Action is the doing part, the part that says I have heard, I have integrated and I am going to do something with what I now understand. It is the bit that often gets the praise (or the opposite) because it tends to be the bit that can be seen. Reflection on the other hand can often go unseen unless we explicitly build it into our way of being, modeling to others that taking time to do it is not just valuable, but in fact essential.

Reflection without action can look like:
1. Daydreaming
2. Ineffective
3. Uncaring
4. Fearful
5. Indulgent

Action without reflection can look like:
1. Reactive
2. Lacking in judgement
3. Hurried
4. Thoughtless
5. Unhelpful

As always, these are not exhaustive lists, rather they are support to stimulate thinking. Why not take the idea of the dance between reflection and action into your team meeting or supervision and discuss what ‘reflection’ and ‘action’ means to each person. Introduce the idea of the Gibbs questions, using them as a group activity focusing on a current case study.

*Before any discussion that explores these areas, focus on safety. We will look at creating safety in more detail another time, but if we don’t feel safe, we can’t explore these things deeply as they require vulnerability.

Next time I’ll look at another trauma informed way of being that supports us ‘leaning in’ on this journey of understanding how we can respond better to the legacy of trauma. We are always aiming rather than arriving!


Gibbs, G. (1988). Learning by doing : A guide to teaching and learning methods. London: FEU.
Pawar, M., & Anscombe, A. (2015). Reflective social work practice : Thinking, doing and being. Melbourne.


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