What is trauma-informed care?

Summed up simply it is approaching services through the lens of “what happened to you?” rather than “what’s wrong with you?”

Asking what has happened to someone when they come into services is encompassing, less victimizing and seeks to understand. The main purpose of approaching services with a trauma-informed lens is to, at minimum, prevent more harm and re-traumatization.  An example of re-traumatization is taking away a patient’s decision-making process. When trauma-exposed patients feel forced into a decision it can trigger a feeling of powerlessness again. A more overt example of re-traumatization is using restraints.


Core principles of trauma informed care are:


  • Safety

Staff and the people they serve should feel safe physically and psychologically


  • Trustworthiness and Transparency

Conduct operations with goal of building and maintaining trust


  • Peer Support

Utilize live experience to promote recovery and healing


  • Collaboration and Mutuality

Importance is place on leveling power differences between staff and clients to create meaningful sharing of power and decision making


  • Empowerment, Voice and Choice

Recognize and build on identified strengths


  • Cultural, Historical and Gender Issues

The organization actively moves past stereotypes and biases offering responsive services to meet the individual’s needs and addresses historical trauma


Examples of trauma-informed care being implemented are having a support person present at gynecological exams, explaining procedures before performing them, and giving the patient power in decision making.

By adopting a trauma informed care, we can avoid trauma survivors feeling abused by the system, distrustful of service providers, misdiagnosing and misunderstanding people and situations.

The goals of trauma informed care is decreased emotional reactions from program participants, decreased crisis in programs, enhanced sense of safety and greater collaboration among providers.

The intention of Trauma-Informed Care is not to treat symptoms or issues related to sexual, physical or emotional abuse or any other form of trauma but rather to provide support services in a way that is accessible and appropriate to those who may have experienced trauma. Therefore, a trauma informed approach can be adopted by any and all types of organizations and care providers.


Sources and More Reading:

What is Trauma Informed Care?

SAMHSA's Concept of Trauma

Trauma Informed Care: An Ecological Response. Journal of Child and Youth Care Work. DeCandia, Carmela and Guarino, Kathleen. 2015.

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