Updated: Nov 14
There are tons of trauma-informed tools out there to help you integrate trauma-informed practices into your everyday life, and today we’re going to focus on powerful questions.
Trauma-Informed Tools: Powerful Questions & TIC Coaching
Powerful questions are a core component of trauma-informed coaching, and they are some of my favorite trauma-informed tools because they accomplish several goals:
Powerful questions help us break reenactments, moving from victim to driver, rescuer to supporter, and prosecutor to coach.
Powerful questions support various trauma-informed values and goals, including self-reflection, empowerment, collaboration, choice, and safety.
Powerful questions get us thinking in new and different ways, helping us discover unseen thoughts, feelings, challenges, and solutions.
While there are countless powerful questions out there for you to use, these five will help you get started embedding the trauma-informed coaching model into your everyday life.
1 – Underneath all of this, what are you really committed to?
Core values are a big part of trauma-informed care. When we are able to align our behaviors to our values, we embody and live those values in a meaningful way. This question invites us to reflect on our core values and motivations, which can be easy to lose sight of.
By connecting with a purpose and finding meaning in our work, we can make informed decisions that ensure our goals align with our values.
This question is especially useful when we face difficult situations or feel stuck because it can provide clarity and direction.
2 – What in your life right now isn’t serving you well? What might be unhealthy or holding you back?
As humans, we can be extremely goal-oriented, always looking toward the future. While ambition and goal-setting isn’t a bad thing, we can forget to consider the present moment.
This question helps us identify behavioral patterns, environmental factors, or relationships in our current situation that are harmful rather than helpful. It centers our well-being and asks us to consider simplifying our life by eliminating things that are not serving us.
In a similar direction, we can also ask, “What is presently consuming your time that you wish you could eliminate?”
By removing things in our lives today, we make space for tomorrow’s goals, which hopefully support our growth and healing.
3 – How much longer can you continue this?
When we’re stuck in a situation that we’re not happy with, we often think, “Things will get better.” While having a positive mindset can be beneficial, this type of thinking isn’t always realistic. Instead of things getting better, they often remain the same, and we end up feeling physically and emotionally drained.
In these situations, asking yourself or others, “How much longer can you continue this?” supports the idea that you can’t go on like this forever. It also creates a solid timeline for how long you can tolerate something.
Asking, “How much longer can you continue this?” can also help us recognize the consequences of ignoring problems. This question can push us to stop ignoring issues and start taking steps toward positive change.
Similarly, we can ask, “What will happen if you do this for the next 10 years?” Depending on the situation, this question might fill you with hope or dread. Thinking about the future in this way can help us envision the results of our actions.
In the future, are you burnt out and resentful of others because of your situation? Or, are you successful because you’re on track to meet your goals?
4 – What would be different if you were different in this situation?
When facing a difficult decision, humans tend to place blame on others. We do this to protect ourselves, but it often keeps us stuck.
Asking this question encourages us to consider how our behaviors and attitudes may be contributing to a situation. It invites us to imagine how we can create different outcomes without necessarily asking others to change.
Taking responsibility for our actions and their impact on others can be emotionally challenging, but this type of self-awareness is essential for healing and growth—it’s also essential for trauma-informed care.
By asking this question, we can identify areas where we have control and agency. Then, we can take tangible steps toward better outcomes.
5 – If you had unlimited time and money, what would you do?
This is one of my favorite questions to get people thinking big. In a world with no limitations, what would you do?
Imagining all the things we would do if we had unlimited resources activates our creative minds and puts us in a fun and inspiring place. It allows us to tap into our deepest desires and aspirations.
Answering this question helps us clarify our priorities, values, and visions. It also allows us to share a part of ourselves with others that we otherwise may not talk about.
Final Thoughts: Asking Powerful Questions
These five powerful questions are a great introduction to trauma-informed coaching, and they’re not the only questions out there!
When brainstorming powerful questions, try to keep them open-ended. Avoid leading questions and yes or no questions. Consider questions that provide clarity, and try to ask thought-provoking questions that might not have easy answers.
Whether you’re asking yourself a powerful question or someone else, don’t be afraid of the silence that follows. Taking quiet time to think of an answer before moving forward is a good thing.