Empathy: A Powerful Tool for Trauma-Sensitive Care


By Erin Chupka, VP of Program Services, Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas

Over the past few years, Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas has endeavored to become increasingly sensitive to the impact of trauma on the lives of our girls and their families. We are proud of the systems, guidelines, and habits we have built to prioritize trauma-sensitive care. However, these past few months have shown us that this task is far from complete.

We know that trauma-sensitive care begins within our team. We urge our staff to practice empathy with one another, respecting differing perspectives and life experiences. From front desk staff to senior administrators, our employees interact sensitively and compassionately with our girls. Additionally, we push our staff to consider the backgrounds and home lives of students, leading to deeper understanding of girls’ behaviors. We challenge each other to be curious, not punitive, when interacting with girls, striving for healing and growth rather than punishment.

We believe trauma-sensitive care is rooted in two practices. First, we build an intentionally diverse staff, who bring a variety of experiences and voices to our team. Second, we create space to debate and disagree in healthy, productive ways. By modeling these practices, even when our girls aren’t present, we form habits and attitudes that permeate every part of our lives.

We are heartbroken by the persistent racial inequality in our nation and the trauma it brings for girls of color. In response to recent traumatic events, we are rolling out a new program on diversity and inclusion. Girls explore concepts such as fairness, identity, and intersectionality. We hope to provide our girls with the ability to discuss differences, deepen understanding, and grow self-esteem.

Ultimately, we believe empathy is key to building a trauma-sensitive organization. By practicing compassion and awareness, whether interacting with colleagues, parents, or girls, we have the power to spur transformation and healing.