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The Trauma Informed Approach to Relationship Building



Learning from Myrna McCallum today means a lot to me, and I hope you will join ILSA at 12 pm MT to hear from her! You can join via ualberta.ca/law/ilsa or by clicking here.


Before law school, I knew I wanted to work within criminal law. I inherently knew that I would be interacting with people who were directly or indirectly affected by some form of trauma. Knowing this, I realized I would need to be cognizant of the different life experiences we all carry with us. Now I know this refers to the “trauma informed approach”.


“Trauma-informed” simply means you are acting in a manner that is self-aware.[1]


A trauma-informed approach helps individuals reflect on their own personal triggers, biases and perspectives and to know that it is possible that their lived experiences may impact how they react in different circumstances. This translates to the legal practice. It doesn’t mean a lawyer must be trained as a health expert, psychologist, or therapist.[2] However, lawyers engage in direct relationships with individuals from various walks of life, which can mean there has been some form of trauma experienced.

Myrna McCallum, a lawyer, educator, and co-author, said: "Trauma-informed lawyering is an ethical practice that embraces a relational approach to the delivery of legal services. In recognizing trauma, identifying triggers, and avoiding or reducing the risks of retraumatizing our clients or witnesses, we improve our witness engagement skills and client satisfaction rates. We also become more innovative in creating trauma-informed litigation strategies." - Myrna McCallum: lawyer, educator, and co-author. [3]

Simply put: trauma has a direct effect on the human brain and body and those affects may exacerbate trauma-related problems or responses.[4] To be trauma-informed means to implement strategies to avoid exacerbating trauma-related problems. The strategies however, are typically not taught in law school.


Professional responsibility courses ought to include trauma-informed teachings.


Whether you are working as a lawyer, doctor, receptionist, veterinarian, nurse, or home care worker, trauma informed education is imperative. Understanding how to be aware of your own ego, perspectives, and biases is necessary to learn how to interact with others on the most basic human level.


Today, the Indigenous Law Students’ Association is offering the unique opportunity to hear from Myrna McCallum on the trauma-informed approach.[5] She is ILSA’s second guest this week as they engage in their 20th Anniversary of their Speaker Series. The program is open to everyone, it's online, and it's FREE! The event is today from 12pm - 1pm MST. If you would like to join the discussion please do so by using this link: ualberta.ca/law/ilsa or clicking here.


If you would like to learn more about the trauma-informed approach, Myrna McCallum offers a podcast here,[6] and she also offers a toolkit here,[7] and here.[8]


See you soon! Until next time,


ReconciliACTION YEG



[1] Myrna McCallum, "Becoming Trauma-Informed Begins With You" (June 7, 2020), online (podcast): The Trauma-Informed Lawyer <https://thetraumainformedlawyer.simplecast.com/episodes/becoming-trauma-informed-begins-with-you>.

[2] Myrna McCallum and Golden Eagle Rising Society, "Trauma-Informed Legal Practice Toolkit" (September 2020), online (pdf): Golden Eagle Rising Society <https://www.goldeneaglerising.org/docuploads/Golden-Eagle-Rising-Society-Trauma-Informed-Toolkit-2021-02-14.pdf>.

[3] West Coast Leaf, "RELEASE: Survivors of sexual assault will be supported by a new legal toolkit to protect against invasive disclosure of private records and sexual history" (April 28, 2020), online: West Coast Leaf <https://www.westcoastleaf.org/our-publications/release-survivors-of-sexual-assault-will-be-supported-by-a-new-legal-toolkit-to-protect-against-invasive-disclosure-of-private-records-and-sexual-history/>.

[4] Supra note 2.

[5] Miyo Pimatisiwin Legal Services, online: <https://traumainformedlegal.ca/>.

[6] The Trauma-Informed Lawyer, online (podcast) <https://thetraumainformedlawyer.simplecast.com/>.

[7] Supra note 2.

[8] Supra note 3.


Artwork: “Myrna at Moonrise” by Metis artist Leah M. Dorion


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