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February 16-19, 2023 Maunabo, Puerto Rico

Using Invitational Language to Create Safety In Trauma Treatment

When it comes to raising kids, you may have heard the saying “more is caught than taught.”  I would invite you to consider that same saying to be true when working with trauma clients. Due to the hard things they have experienced, their systems are hyper-sensitive to anything that feels potentially unsafe. How their system responds to that danger might be different but holding the truth that they are scanning the environment for danger is usually accurate.  

Learning about safety is less effective than experiencing safety when it comes to helping trauma clients heal. So the more you create experiences of safety in the treatment space, the more opportunities their systems have to consider what might be safe and what that feels like. One simple way you can create safety (that is also so powerful) is by using invitational language.

You may have heard of the term before, or it might be new to you. I would say that it is very popular in body-based trauma treatment modalities, such as Trauma-Informed Yoga. It basically means to invite a person to do what feels best for them through offering options versus using commands to direct a client.

Think about it: most trauma survivors have had their choice taken away. By using invitational language, you can give them the choice to participate in the process or not. They can learn to say no again or, for some, for the first time. Just by offering interventions in the form of invitations, a client can start to regain their voice. They can also explore what they need with the consideration of invitations.

Here are a few considerations for phrasing invitations to participate in interventions:

  • I would like to invite you….
  • I am wondering if you would like to…
  • Does it feel okay to….
  • Is XYZ tolerable? If not, we can do something different…

I want to invite you to be more mindful of your language around interventions over the next week. If you already use invitational language, step it up a notch. And if you don’t use invitational language, I wonder what it would be like to start experimenting.

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