Trauma-informed care involves interactions that emphasize physical and emotional safety, choice and empowerment for the person receiving services. This approach engages people with histories of trauma and acknowledges the role it has played in their lives. Treatment reflects that experience. For instance, a therapist will ask “what happened to you?” instead of “what’s wrong with you?”
Frequently asked questions about trauma-informed care:
What is trauma?
Emotional, physical or mental trauma occurs when a person is overwhelmed by an event or circumstance and responds with intense fear and helplessness. Trauma affects the developing brain and body and alters the body’s stress response mechanisms.
How long does it last?
Many people who have suffered trauma in childhood show signs of difficulty well into adulthood; this is normal. However, unresolved trauma can eventually manifest in many ways, including anxiety disorders, panic attacks or intrusive memories, and it also can lead to high-risk behaviors such as suicidal thoughts.
Can trauma affect my physical health?
Trauma impacts every area of human functioning — physical, mental, behavioral, social and spiritual. There is a relationship between trauma and physical health conditions such as diabetes, COPD, heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure.
Can I recover?
People can recover from trauma, which will allow them to move forward with their lives. Trauma-informed care is a critical component of successful recovery.
In terms of a community:
Is trauma a national issue?
The Adverse Childhood Experiences study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente is one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being. Almost two-thirds of the study participants reported at least one adverse childhood experience. Statistics also show that between 75 and 93 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have experienced some degree of trauma.
What are communities doing about it?
Trauma is a costly public health concern that communities are trying to address. Unaddressed trauma can result in disease, disability, chronic social problems, economic effects and even early death. Until recently, treatment systems failed to understand the full impact of traumatic experiences. A movement for trauma-informed care has emerged to ensure that trauma is recognized and treated and that survivors are not re- victimized when they seek care.
What is a trauma-informed care community?
A trauma-informed care community is committed to a common goal of ensuring less trauma of any type (i.e. physical, emotional, accident/injury, political, natural disasters, violence, etc.). It is a community of people from all walks of life – education, juvenile justice, welfare, housing, medical practices, businesses, etc. – who have agreed to apply the trauma-informed care approach to their interactions with citizens. A program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed does the following:
- Understands the impact of trauma and potential paths for recovery
- Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma
- Integrates information about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices
- Seeks to actively resist re-traumatization
What is a trauma-informed care approach?
There are six key principles that guide a trauma-informed care approach. These may be applied across multiple settings.
- Trustworthiness and transparency
- Peer support
- Collaboration and mutuality
- Empowerment, voice and choice
- Cultural, historical and gender issues
How do organizations build a trauma-informed system?
Trauma-informed care systems are built when the following specific strategies are ensured across every level within an organization:
- Universal screening and assessment procedures for trauma
- Inter-agency and intra-agency collaboration
- Referral agreements and networks to match individual’s needs
- Mission and Values statements that endorse trauma recognition
- Consumer- and community-supported committees and trauma response teams
- Program policies and procedures that ensure trauma recognition and secure trauma-informed practices, trauma- specific services, and prevention of re-traumatization