Trauma-Informed Lens Podcast

Episode 6: The Two Why’s: Expanding how we think about behavior

Posted on October 24, 2017

Episode 6: The Two Why’s: Expanding how we think about behavior

In Episode 6, Matt, Curt, and Jerry present a framework that has important implications for answering the all-important question “Why do we do what we do?”  To change a behavior, you must first understand it.  This is where Trauma Informed Care and Applied Behavior Analysis overlap to give us a more integrated understanding. Along with the perspective gained from an understanding of the effects of early childhood adverse experiences on the developing brain, attachment, and the nervous system, functional behavior assessment provides an additional perspective for understanding trauma symptoms.  We call these two perspectives the “two why’s”.

First, traumatic environments cause disrupted attachment, underdeveloped brain structures, and sensitized nervous system which leads to the individual engaging in extreme behavioral and emotional reactions.   These behaviors are extreme coping strategies/ adaptations which help the individual to survive.  Second, our biology has equipped us with the ability to adapt to environmental requirements through the processes of reinforcement and punishment.  These extreme behavioral reactions and the development of extreme coping strategies expose the child to behavioral contingencies that typically developing children may not be in contact with such that the extreme coping strategies are maintained over time by both negative reinforcement (avoidance) and positive reinforcement.

These two “why’s” make us wise.  The complete understanding that they provide will guide treatment and interventions.


Jerry’s Question of the week:  What are those environmental conditions that make it hard for you to stay connected to yourself? When was it hard for you to pause, reflect, and ask the trauma-informed questions about the situation?

Listen now: Episode 6: The Two Why’s: Expanding how we think about behavior

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