I first learned about Crestwood four years ago in Boston, where I met Mertice “Gitane” Williams, Crestwood’s Vocational Wellness Educator, at a Trauma Summit hosted by the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care. My introduction to Crestwood and subsequent work with Crestwood has had a profound effect in my personal and professional life.

I train and consult on creating trauma-informed systems all over the country and in some other parts of the world. As many of you know, trauma-informed care (TIC) is about operating from a set of values consistent with trauma-informed principles. First and foremost, Crestwood values are very much aligned with the values of TIC. But more importantly, Crestwood lives and practices its values, which makes it a trauma-informed organization.

Creating trauma-informed organizations is a journey. This journey can be difficult and challenging, but rewarding. Crestwood understands this and has made a commitment to this journey for the long haul. This is what makes my journey with Crestwood unique. I have assisted many organizations in this journey and some organizations introduce TIC as a “flavor of the month”, and then later that energy fades away. But this is not the case at Crestwood. Two years after my big training for Crestwood on TIC, the DVD of that training remains mandatory viewing for their new staff orientation. Of course, I still blush when I walk into a program and get recognized from that DVD!

Trauma-informed care is about healing. There are experiences in all our lives and our clients’ lives that leave an emotional wound, and some of those are deeper than others. A very wise Native American psychologist once said that trauma is the “wound that does not bleed.” Therefore, our job is to create a system of care that ultimately helps heal these wounds. We can call it many names, but ultimately most everything we do boils down to promoting healing. Crestwood understands this concept and that is why the many initiatives that Crestwood embarks on helps people heal. For example, the development of welcoming rooms to replace intake/admission rooms is a significant move towards healing. When clients walk into a Crestwood building, their first encounter is to walk into a room that says, “We are here to make you feel safe and wanted” versus “We are here to fix you.” Practices that empower clients to manage their treatment honors clients’ self-determination. Also the preponderance of rocking and sliding chairs in the programs provides rhythmic and repetitive movements for self-soothing and building new self-regulatory pathways, which are important in a client’s healing journey.  All the environmental improvements and enhancements convey the message to your clients and staff that you provide them with a place to live and work that reflects their importance in this world. The Dreamcatchers Empowerment Network program is not just a vocational program, it is a program that helps clients rediscover and reinforce their worth in this world and that they can make a difference.

There are many big and small things that are being implemented throughout Crestwood. I urge you to view all of these as steps in the healing journey and that there is no deed too small to make an impact on healing. There is no job or function that does not contribute to this journey.  The Crestwood motto, “It’s About Growth” is founded on the understanding that it is hard to grow without healing from the past. Practicing trauma-informed approaches is akin to preparing and tilling the land to ensure growth is possible. A good gardener knows that it is important to know the nutrients that already exist in the soil in order to supplement and enhance what is already there.  This is why it is also crucial that you recognize and honor the many years you have been conducting healing practices with your clients. Your journey is in discovering and implementing healing practices that will augment the wonderful things you all are already doing.

Lastly, I thank you all for the privilege in making me a part of the Crestwood journey!

Contributed by:
Raul Almazar
Almazar Consulting & Senior Consultant to the National Center for Trauma Informed Care.