Oprah Winfrey's Exploration into the Revolutionary Approach of Trauma Informed Care

NYAPRS Note: Oprah Winfrey in an appearance on March 6, 2018 CBS Morning News spoke about her exploration into the revolutionary approach to childhood trauma for her “60 Minutes” episode. 

Oprah Winfrey explores what many in the field of mental health services have for quite some time have embraced because it is  revolutionary - the approach of trauma-informed care. As this interview and episode was aired, public awareness was raised about the possibilities of making great strides in how we deal with crises and healing, what Winfrey calls the “shift in perspective”.

Winfrey says of the “60 Minutes” episode,  “This story is so important to me and I believe to our culture that if I could dance on the tabletops right now to get people to pay attention to it, I would. It is definitively changed the way I see people in the world, and it has definitively changed the way I will now be operating my school in South Africa and going forward any philanthropic efforts that I'm engaged in,"...

While there have been plenty of job and training programs to help the disadvantaged, Winfrey said, "If you don't fix the hole in the soul, the thing that is where the wounds started, you're working at the wrong thing."

The shift in perspective comes down to what Winfrey calls a "life-changing question... we go through life and we see kids who are misbehaving. 'You juvenile delinquents,' we label them. And really, the question that we should be asking is not 'what's wrong with that child' but 'what happened to that child?' And then having the resources to be able to address what happened to you. 

Oprah on treating childhood trauma

Oprah Winfrey is shifting her perspective on how childhood trauma impacts people's lives. For her Sunday "60 Minutes," Winfrey traveled to Milwaukee, where she grew up, to learn about a revolutionary approach in the city to early trauma. She spoke to Dr. Bruce Perry, a world-renowned expert in the field who has treated survivors of high-profile events like the Columbine shooting. He said a child's brain gets wired "differently" when they're raised in a chaotic or violent environment.  

"If you have developmental trauma, the truth is you're going to be at risk for almost any kind of physical health, mental health, social health problem that you can think of," Perry told Winfrey.

Winfrey said she believes the conversation could be a "game changer." 

"The most important question you can ask of anybody which is what I now say even for the Parkland [school] shooting – instead of what's the matter with that kid, I say what happened to that child?" 

As a result of her reporting, she said she went back to her school board and said, "Hey, we've been doing it all wrong. We need to be a trauma-informed care institution." 

"It's directly proportional to the relationships. So he, Dr. Perry, was saying for me, for instance, it was school. I found my refuge in school," Winfrey said. "I found my place in school from teachers. So everybody needs somebody growing up that says, 'I believe in you, you're OK, things are going to be all right.' And that can be a teacher, that can be a coach, that can be somebody in Sunday school."

View the CBS interview and more about this Oprah “60 Minutes” episode at the link below.