Processing Trauma Using the Relational Care Ladder

Processing Trauma Using the Relational Care Ladder


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While the process of dealing with trauma is complex, the Relational Care Ladder offers a helpful framework that focuses on supporting the need for safety, awareness, the expression of feelings, and empowerment for children growing up. The Relational Care Ladder allows practitioners to recognize developmental gaps in children or youth, address immediate behavioral issues, and prevent or ease trauma following them into adulthood. Grounded in the work of developmental theorists, the Relational Care Ladder was developed by the author based on years of experience in educational psychology and restorative practices. When working with young people who’ve experienced trauma, it is critical that adults and other professionals are accountable for creating structure, nurturing, and supporting engagement and appropriate confrontation skills. If adults neglect or fail to provide the rungs of the Relational Care Ladder, children and youth may experience trauma and a deregulation of the central nervous pathways. Support and regulation from professionals and parents are pivotal in trauma proofing our developing youth. This paper offers an explanation of the rungs in the Relational Care Ladder as a quick and easy framework that adults, professionals, and parents may use. Further, restorative processes are shown to be supportive of this work. The Relational Care Ladder provides appropriate guidance when one’s emotions demonstrate implicit trauma memory experiences. Adults, whether parent or professionals, communicate equal accountability for meeting and attending to children’s or client’s respective needs. The range of applicability of the Relational Care Ladder framework will be discussed.

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Frida C. Rundell, Ph.D., LPC