Cyrenians - Trauma-informed Practice

Cyrenians is a charity aimed at tackling the causes and consequences of homelessness. The charity aimed to develop trauma-informed practice across its organisation, spanning leadership, consultation and training. This case study highlights the steps Cyrenians took to start their journey in developing trauma-informed practice.

Cyrenians logoThe challenge

As part of the organisation’s strategic objectives for 2020-2025, Cyrenians aimed to ‘Seek system change through the introduction of values-led, trusted relationship-based services across all sectors’. One of the ways the organisation planned to achieve this was to develop the use of trauma-informed practice across the organisation. The strategic plan identified steps to success as:

  • Delivering trauma-informed training to all staff, to enable Cyrenians to work more effectively with people who have experienced trauma;
  • Staff giving positive feedback regarding the value of trauma-informed training in their practice and putting a budget in place for future years; and
  • Staff reporting improved confidence in working with people affected by psychological trauma.

Outline of activity

Leadership and consultation

Shortly after the TPTIC (Transforming Psychological Trauma Implementation Coordinator) roles were created, Cyrenians made contact to discuss the above strategic objectives and how TPTICs might support these. What followed was a series of consultation meetings discussing organisational readiness, the scope and scale of required trauma training and possible post-training support options. After some data gathering and training needs analysis, a plan to assist Cyrenians on their journey to trauma-informed service delivery was developed. This included:

  • Senior leaders to attend Scottish Trauma-Informed Leaders Training (STILT), developed by NES (face-to-face and later online)
  • TPTIC to attend meeting of all service managers to present on the National Trauma Training Programme (NTTP) and have a discussion about Cyrenians’ role in terms of trauma-informed practice
  • Two Cyrenians’ staff to attend Level 1 “training for trainers” event
  • TPTICs to deliver NTTP Level 1 (Trauma Informed) and Level 2 (Trauma Skilled) training to as many Cyrenians staff as possible
  • Cyrenians to expand options for post trauma training support and reflective practice.


Cyrenians’ management team completed a trauma training needs analysis and identified appropriate staff to attend Level 1 or Level 2 training. Training was delivered online by TPTICs and colleagues from City of Edinburgh Council Community Justice Services. All attendees were asked to complete evaluation surveys prior to attending and following completion of the training.

Following training, Cyrenians offered attendees the choice of a range of supports including the opportunity to discuss their learning within their line management supervision, attend a reflective practice group or provide feedback via an email conversation.


Training was delivered between October 2020 and March 2021. A total of 141 people were trained across both levels. Cyrenians’ paid workforce is approximately 150 people, so this indicated that around 82% (124) of staff with an additional 17 volunteers were trained. Eighty-one staff attended Level 1 and 60 attended Level 2 training.

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive:

The training was incredibly helpful, informative and engaging. The sessions were considered ‘time well spent’ with good content for learning and practical tools to support ongoing professional development.

All [attendees] fed back to me individually how worthwhile and useful they found it particularly as they could all think of incidences in [the] past few months where they might have felt better equipped to deal with a situation had they had this training.

A number of staff commented on the wider usefulness of the training:

Could relate on a personal and professional level.”

Found the fact it was Covid-specific very useful, for family members as well as in work life.”

A number of staff highlighted the strong links to Cyrenians’ ongoing work on wellbeing and self-care:

“I found the taking care of yourself bit very interesting and was quite shocked to see my physical health orange/red.”

Maybe made me act on self-care rather than just be aware but do nothing about it!”

Staff also highlighted how the training consolidated existing knowledge:

“Emphasis on giving people choices and really listening makes you think about how our service already works in a trauma-informed way, we just did not label it that way”

The training “brought reassurance to the team that a lot of the practices we are already doing as a team”.

Staff reflected on the increased appreciation of the value of reflective practice:

“I hope as a team we can make time for regular team specific reflective sessions other than the organisation’s reflective practice sessions”

“What has changed as a team is that there is a recognition that we need to be having more discussion and potentially team specific reflective practice about trauma that’s coming up within our cases and how we are approaching it”

Staff highlighted that the training is valuable for multi-agency working and for providing a “shared vocabulary”:

Useful to understand current terminology- especially if this is being rolled out to NHS staff, we can use the same language as them when supporting them to understand patients’ behaviours”


A central theme in the learning was the essential role leadership played in the implementation of organisation-wide training. Feedback suggested:

  • No one leader could achieve trauma-informed organisational change, it requires a team
  • Managers attending STILT helped the organisation consider how trauma-informed principles could be incorporated into leadership practices
  • Commitment to trauma-informed practice being part of strategic objectives fostered commitment at an individual service level but also provided opportunities to encourage colleagues when training might have been deemed less of a priority
  • The CEO and other members of the leadership team visibly attending training demonstrated
  • organisational commitment and encouraged others to attend
  • Managers attending training meant they could genuinely recommend it to their staff
  • To make training successful, at least one person needs to take responsibility for spending dedicated time on coordinating attendance and responding to queries. This took a significant amount of time and should be factored into the identified individual’s job plan.

In terms of the impact on staff and the organisation, feedback suggested that the training:

  • Gave/reinforced a shared language across the organisation and with partners. For example, concepts like the “window of tolerance” are now being discussed in one to ones or team meetings
  • Provided an opportunity to think about self-care and reflect on staff well-being
  • Fostered an increased awareness and interest in reflective practice
  • Helped to inform ongoing strategic conversations about incorporating voices of lived experience into organisational decision making
  • Prompted consideration of how trauma-informed principles can be incorporated into staff annual reviews.

Cyrenians have invested significant levels of resource in trauma informing their workforce through a programme of organisation-wide trauma training. Whilst this training appears to have been successful, it is important to acknowledge that for transformational trauma-informed change to occur, gaps and next steps needed to be carefully considered. Cyrenians identified key gaps/ barriers as being:

  • Sustainable access to training. Cyrenians do not have “in-house” trainers to deliver the training.
  • Access to coaching or advice regarding next steps and how to fully embed trauma-informed change following training
  • Little experience of using trauma informed toolkits or evaluation tools to guide planning.

This case study was co-authored with Lothian Transforming Psychological Trauma Implementation Coordinators