What is trauma-informed practice? 

Alex Evans, Artistic Director of Kazzum Arts, shares his insights

20 December 2022

Kazzum Arts uses creativity to enable children and young people who have been impacted by trauma and adversity to feel seen, heard and valued. We do this by providing opportunities to explore creative expression and agency through multidisciplinary arts activities. With over 30-years' experience of working in trauma-impacted environments such as migrant community settings, hospital wards, pupil referral units and schools, our workshops provide spaces for creativity, reflection, connection and self-regulation.

In 2018 we began our journey to becoming a trauma-informed organisation, seeking ways to deepen our offering to better support and protect both our participants and our facilitators. Since then, our trauma-informed practice has evolved to inform every part of our organisation, and we continually seek out new research to develop and grow as we learn.

In 2021 NHS Digital found that 1 in 6 children had a probable mental disorder. Alongside that harrowing statistic The Children’s Society reported that 34% of children referred to NHS services for mental health support are not accepted into treatment. This paints a stark picture of how many children and young people are falling through gaps and unable to access the support that they need. While we cannot replace specialist health care for mental health disorders, charities like Kazzum can provide much-needed holistic support for those in need.

Trauma can be understood as the body’s natural stress response to overwhelming experiences and sensations. Protecting us from threat and danger, traumatic stress moves through the body, enabling us to respond to frightening and shocking encounters by mobilising away or towards danger, or by shutting down completely. Our Animating Adversity series visualises the direct power that traumatic experiences can have over a young life.

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We can experience traumatic overwhelm at any age and within any area of our lives, and though it is designed to protect us from harm it can become deeply held in our bodies and minds. Events we encounter inform how we relate to others, inhabit our bodies and feel safe in environments. When trauma is unprocessed and unsupported, we can experience lifelong impacts to our physical and mental health, our relationships and life chances.

Kazzum’s trauma-informed approach is unique to our organisation, meeting young people where they are at and responding with the sensitivity and creativity necessary to support their ongoing growth. Increasingly our response has focussed on increasing protective factors to mitigate the effects of trauma and build resilience against re-traumatisation.

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Keeping protective factors in mind, our approach centres on the creative arts and contributes to an increased sense of well-being and positive mental health through shared imagination and self-expression. Our approach also embodies relationships with the aim of building bonds of safety and trust and encouraging friendship, support and empathy to flourish. We understand health and ill health and the impact of trauma, delivering holistic and responsive activities guided by our knowledge and insight. Finally, we recognise that trauma and adversity is reflected within environments across society, creating damaging systems of inequity. We actively raise awareness to the issues that matter to the children and young people we meet. More about our unique approach can be found here.

As creative professionals working in environments impacted by trauma our ability to mentalise the impact of trauma on an individual and systemic scale is an important skill, essential now more than ever before. However, there are also increased risks that come when stewarding the trauma of others, including consistent feelings of overwhelm, despair and lack of worth in our professional roles. Many professionals can develop secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue and risk burnout, which increase the likelihood of leaving the profession and contributing to mental and physical ill-health.

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Kazzum have invested in staff and artists through ongoing training and therapeutic reflective practice which has offered the opportunity to develop the necessary professional and interpersonal skills needed to hold the trauma of others.

We accept that this is an evolving journey for the organisation and continue to seek new research to increase our awareness of approaches to trauma-informed practice. It is our belief that children and young people who have been impacted by trauma and adversity deserve access to safe and effective routes to recovery. It is the responsibility of the systems and communities around them to provide access to protective factors that may, with consistency and time, guide them towards post-traumatic growth.

For more information please visit our website.


Kazzum have developed interactive and holistic training exploring the impact of trauma and developing trauma-informed approaches within your individual practice or organisation.

Find out more information.

Resources by Kazzum Arts

Animating Adversity – a four-part guide to adverse childhood experiences:

Suggested reading

  • Hughes, D. (2004) Building the bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in deeply traumatised Children, London: Roman and Littlefield
  • Perry, B. (2017) The Boy who was raised as a Dog and other stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s notebook, New York: Basic Books
  • Perry, B and Winfrey, O. (2021) What Happened to You, Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing, Pan Macmillan
  • Maté, G. (2019) When the Body says No: The cost of hidden stress, London: Vermillion
  • Van der Kolk, B. (2014) The Body Keeps the Score, London: Penguin Books

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