What is Trauma-Informed Care?
Trauma-informed care is a service delivery approach focused on an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma. It promotes positive outcomes by emphasizing physical, psychological, and emotional safety and enhances wellbeing by empowering individuals to define their needs and goals and make choices about their care and services.
Trauma-informed care is a universal framework that any organization can implement to build a culture that acknowledges and anticipates that many people we serve or interact with have histories of trauma and that the environment and interpersonal interactions within an organization can exacerbate the physical, mental, and behavioral manifestations of trauma. Trauma-informed care requires that all staff are trained to be aware of trauma and avoid processes and practices that may re-traumatize survivors.
Employment Support Gone Wrong
Trauma Informed's Mark O'Brien and Morgan Gliedman demonstrate how not to do trauma-informed care.
Not a One-Size-Fits-All Approach
Trauma-informed care is not a one-size-fits-all approach to service delivery. It’s not a program. It’s a set of principles and approaches that can shape the ways that people interact within an organization, with clients, patients, customers, and other stakeholders, and with the environment.
Trauma-informed care is a universal framework that any organization can implement to build a culture that acknowledges and anticipates that many people we serve or interact with have histories of trauma and that the environment and interpersonal interactions within an organization can exacerbate the physical, mental, and behavioral manifestations of trauma.
Identity and Culture Matter
Identity and intersectionality are powerful contexts in which a person’s experience of trauma are shaped and a significant reason that the same event can be traumatic for one person but not for another. Historical, racial, and other intergenerational traumas are a part of a person’s experience, and being trauma-informed means recognizing and respecting this reality and showing humility about the aspects of a person’s cultural experiences that are different from your own and that you might not fully understand.
Throughout the organization, the people we serve and the people we work with feel physically and emotionally safe. Not only is the physical setting safe, but interpersonal interactions also promote a sense of psychological and phsyical safety. We strive to understand safety from the perspective of the people we serve.
Trustworthiness and Transparency
We build and maintain trust with people served by our organization and their family members, among staff and leadership, and with all other stakeholders and partners. We have a culture of honesty, where people follow through on their commitments to each other and the people we serve.
We value the insights and knowledge of people with lived experiences of trauma. If we’re working with children, we strive to involve adults who experienced trauma and children or family members of children who experienced traumatic events. We include peers in service delivery and ensure they have input into how services are designed and offered.
Collaboration and Mutuality
We value partnering and leveling power differences between ourselves and the people we serve and among organizational staff, recognizing that healing happens in relationships and in the meaningful sharing of power and decision-making. Everyone, especially the people we serve, has a role to play in deciding what services are needed and how they are delivered. We promote a sense of control and agency in others.
Empowerment, Voice, and Choice
We recognize and celebrate the strengths of others and uphold the centrality of the people we serve. We believe in resilience, and in the ability of individuals, organizations, and communities to heal, and we focus on shared decision-making, identify and offer choices for service delivery, and listen to understand the meaningful goals of the people we serve.
Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues
We acknowledge and respond to cultural, historical, and gender issues, balancing the need to understand, honor, and respond to cultural and intersectional differences and offer culturally competent and gender responsive services while at the same time moving past cultural stereotypes and biases in our expectations and service delivery.
Top Resources on Trauma-Informed Care
Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services, U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Trauma-Informed Care, National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare
Trauma-Informed Care Implementation Resource Center, Center for Health Care Strategies
The Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care, University of Buffalo
Trauma-Informed Care, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
Trauma-Informed Care, The National Council on Mental Wellbeing