At least one in four children in the United States has experienced child neglect or abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual) at some point in their lives.1 Because these adverse childhood experiences can have lasting effects on patients’ health and wellness if left unaddressed, many practices have begun screening for childhood trauma (see a sample survey).
When caring for patients with a history of childhood trauma, some simple shifts in your communication habits can signal to patients that your practice is a safe space for them and help avoid re-traumatization.
1. Warn patients prior to asking invasive or potentially upsetting questions.
2. Ask permission before initiating touch or physical examination, and explain what you are doing.
3. Use caring, sensitive language, such as “Some people find it helpful to take a few deep, relaxing breaths” versus “You need to relax.”
4. Assure patients that any information they share will be kept confidential.
1. Hillis SD, Mercy JA, Saul JR. The enduring impact of violence against children. Psychol Health Med. 2017;22(4):393-405.
Read the full FPM article: “Unlocking Clues to Current Health in Past History: Childhood Trauma and Healing.”
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