What Is Trauma Informed Care

May 1, 2024

Discover what is trauma-informed care, its key principles and the transformative impact on healthcare.

Understanding Trauma-Informed Care

As the healthcare field evolves, new approaches to patient care are continually being developed. One such approach gaining recognition is Trauma-Informed Care (TIC). But what is trauma-informed care? At its core, TIC acknowledges that traumatic experiences are terrifying and overwhelming, and it is a commitment to not repeat these experiences and to restore a sense of safety, power, and self-worth. Trauma Informed Oregon

Core Principles of Trauma-Informed Care

TIC is based on six key principles: safety, trustworthiness and transparency, peer support and mutual self-help, collaboration and mutuality, empowerment voice, and choice, and cultural, historical, and gender issues. These principles guide the practice of TIC, shaping the way care providers interact with patients and influencing the overall approach to care. By incorporating these principles into their practice, care providers can create an environment that promotes healing and recovery for individuals who have experienced trauma. Trauma Informed Oregon

  1. Safety: Ensuring that the patient feels physically and emotionally safe.
  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency: Building trust with the patient through consistent, clear, and transparent operations.
  3. Peer Support and Mutual Self-Help: Integrating peer support and mutual self-help into the care process to promote healing and recovery.
  4. Collaboration and Mutuality: Encouraging collaboration and shared decision-making between the care provider and the patient.
  5. Empowerment, Voice, and Choice: Respecting and validating the patient's voice and choice throughout the care process.
  6. Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues: Recognizing and addressing the cultural, historical, and gender-related issues that may influence the patient's experience of trauma.

Shift in Perspective: "What Happened to You?"

A key element of TIC is the shift in perspective from "What's wrong with you?" to "What happened to you?" Aquila Recovery Clinic. This shift aims to build a better understanding of a patient's past and present life situations, leading to better care outcomes and long-term healing.

By focusing on the patient's experiences rather than their symptoms, care providers can develop a more empathetic and holistic approach to care. This shift in perspective can also help to reduce the stigma often associated with traumatic experiences, encouraging patients to share their experiences and engage more fully in their treatment.

This person-centered approach is what makes TIC a transformative force in healthcare, reshaping the way we understand and respond to trauma. By recognizing the pervasive impact of trauma, we can create healthcare environments that are more compassionate, effective, and ultimately, healing.

Benefits of Trauma-Informed Care

Adopting a trauma-informed approach to care offers numerous benefits, not only to patients but also to healthcare professionals. It can significantly improve patient safety and engagement, reduce the risk of re-traumatization, and foster a more empowering and collaborative treatment approach.

Patient Safety and Engagement

One of the primary benefits of trauma-informed care is its ability to create a sense of safety in patients, both physically and emotionally. This enhanced sense of security encourages patients to engage more actively with their treatment and share their experiences with healthcare providers. As a result, it can lead to improved health outcomes, better treatment adherence, and increased patient satisfaction [1].

Avoiding Re-Traumatization

Another significant advantage of this approach is that it can help avoid re-traumatization. It does this by steering clear of actions that may exacerbate mental health issues or discourage individuals from seeking healthcare help, such as repeatedly recounting traumatic experiences. This respect for the patient's mental wellbeing can lead to a more positive healthcare experience and encourage patients to continue seeking the help they need [2].

Empowerment and Collaborative Approach

Trauma-informed care also places a strong emphasis on patient empowerment. It allows individuals to take control of their treatment decisions, shifting from a paternalistic to a collaborative approach. This shift leads to better engagement with care providers and treatments, and can significantly improve the effectiveness of the care provided.

Moreover, this approach can also benefit healthcare providers and staff. By fostering a more understanding and empathetic environment, it can help reduce burnout among healthcare professionals, potentially decreasing staff turnover, and creating a more positive work environment.

In summary, trauma-informed care offers a holistic approach to healthcare that acknowledges the impact of trauma on an individual's health and wellbeing. It has the potential to transform healthcare practice, improve patient outcomes, and enhance the work environment for healthcare professionals.

Implementing Trauma-Informed Care

The process of implementing trauma-informed care is a key aspect when answering the question, "what is trauma-informed care?" It involves creating an institutional framework for trauma-informed services in behavioral health settings [3]. This process requires a commitment to compassionate and effective practices, ongoing organizational reassessments, and changes to meet the needs of consumers with histories of trauma.

Organizational Framework

An essential component of implementing trauma-informed care is the development of an organizational framework that supports the delivery of trauma-informed services. This includes program delivery, staff development, policies and procedures, administrative practices, and organizational infrastructure. The aim is to foster a trauma-informed culture in behavioral health settings.

Key elements of the organizational framework may include:

  • Adoption of trauma-informed care principles at all levels of the organization
  • Staff training and professional development on trauma-informed care
  • Policies and procedures that align with trauma-informed care principles
  • Administrative practices that support the implementation of trauma-informed care
  • Infrastructure changes to facilitate the delivery of trauma-informed services

Trauma Screening and Treatment

In a trauma-informed organization, universal routine screenings across all services are crucial to identify trauma survivors and provide them with appropriate treatment and services. Such screenings are especially vital for clients seeking mental health and addiction services.

Effective trauma screening and treatment may involve:

  • Routine screenings to identify trauma history and symptoms
  • Use of validated trauma screening tools
  • Provision of trauma-informed treatment modalities
  • Referral to specialized trauma services when needed

Creating a Safe Environment

Creating a safe environment is another important aspect of implementing trauma-informed care. Organizations should reevaluate their physical facilities and environmental safety measures to prevent retraumatization. Feedback from consumers about their experiences with the program is crucial in establishing a safe environment.

Steps to create a safe environment may include:

  • Ensuring physical safety within the facility
  • Minimizing potential triggers or reminders of trauma
  • Providing a welcoming and comfortable environment
  • Encouraging client feedback to continuously improve the environment

The successful implementation of trauma-informed care requires collaboration with consumers, staff members, key stakeholders, and other agencies. This fosters a comprehensive approach, ensuring the provision of the most appropriate services and support for clients [3].

Key Principles of Trauma-Informed Approach

To grasp the concept of trauma-informed care, it's essential to understand its key principles. These principles guide the approach and ensure it effectively addresses the needs of individuals who have experienced trauma. The main principles focus on safety and trustworthiness, peer support and collaboration, and empowerment, voice, and choice.

Safety and Trustworthiness

Safety is a fundamental element of trauma-informed care. This principle encompasses physical, emotional, and interpersonal safety for all individuals served. The aim is to create an environment where individuals feel secure and protected. Trauma-aware organizations often provide critical incident debriefing following traumatic events witnessed by staff and volunteers to ensure safety [4].

Trustworthiness and transparency are also crucial in a trauma-informed approach. Operations and decisions should be carried out openly to build and maintain trust with service recipients, staff, and stakeholders. Fostering a culture of connection and relationship-building is essential in establishing trustworthiness within an organization.

Peer Support and Collaboration

Peer support is another key principle of trauma-informed care. Organizations promoting this kind of care integrate the culture and values of peer support into the entire organization. This approach emphasizes authenticity, vulnerability, and mutual connections among all staff and initiatives within the organization [4].

Collaboration is also central to the trauma-informed approach. It involves working together to address the effects of trauma and promote recovery. It's about creating a supportive network where individuals can rely on each other for help and guidance.

Empowerment, Voice, and Choice

Empowerment, voice, and choice form the core of a trauma-informed approach. This principle emphasizes the belief in recovery from trauma and an individual's inner resilience. Empowerment stems from a person's own strength, with supporters shining a light on the strengths and abilities individuals may overlook in themselves [4].

Giving individuals a voice and choice is crucial for those who have experienced past trauma. This principle empowers them to make decisions and regain control over their lives. It's about respecting and validating their experiences and feelings, and letting them know that they matter.

These key principles of a trauma-informed approach guide the transformation of organizational culture by emphasizing respect and a proper response to the effects of trauma at all levels. It requires a system to shift from asking, "What is wrong with this person?" to "What has happened to this person?".

Transforming Organizations with Trauma-Informed Care

The implementation of Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) in organizations is a gradual and ongoing process that can significantly improve the care provided to individuals who have experienced trauma. This transformation begins with leadership and governance, extends to workforce training and development, and encompasses changes to the physical environment and policy.

Governance and Leadership

The transformation towards trauma-informed care starts at the top, with governance and leadership. It demands a commitment to compassionate and effective practices, organizational reassessments, and changes to meet the needs of consumers with histories of trauma [3].

Leaders play a vital role in establishing a trauma-informed culture in behavioral health settings by promoting the core principles of TIC throughout the organization and ensuring the incorporation of TIC in all aspects of service delivery, staff development, policies and procedures, and administrative practices.

Moreover, leaders must foster collaborative relationships and partnerships with consumers, staff members, key stakeholders, and other agencies to provide the most appropriate services and support to clients. Referral agreements and collaborative arrangements are essential for integrating trauma-informed care.

Training and Workforce Development

Workforce development and training are crucial components of a trauma-informed organization. Staff members must be adequately trained to identify trauma survivors through universal routine screenings across all services and provide appropriate treatment and services. This is particularly essential for clients seeking mental health and addiction services.

Ongoing training and support should be provided to all staff members to increase their understanding of trauma and its impacts, improve their skills in providing trauma-informed care, and enhance their capacity to prevent re-traumatization.

Physical Environment and Policy

Finally, transforming an organization with trauma-informed care involves reevaluating and modifying the physical environment and policy to create a safe and supportive environment for all consumers.

The physical facilities should be reevaluated to ensure that they are safe, welcoming, and comfortable for consumers. Environmental safety measures should be implemented to prevent retraumatization and promote healing. Feedback from consumers about their experiences with the program is crucial in establishing a safe environment.

Policies should be revised to reflect the principles of trauma-informed care, with a focus on safety, trustworthiness, collaboration, and empowerment. Policies should also promote the rights of consumers and staff members, ensure confidentiality and respect, and support a culture of nonviolence and compassion.

In conclusion, transforming an organization with trauma-informed care is a complex but rewarding process that can significantly improve the quality of care provided to individuals who have experienced trauma. With strong leadership, comprehensive training, and changes to the physical environment and policy, organizations can become more responsive to the needs of trauma survivors and contribute to their healing and recovery.

The Impact of Trauma-Informed Care

The adoption of trauma-informed care brings about a significant transformation in healthcare settings. These changes not only benefit the patients but also contribute to the overall wellness of the providers and staff. The impact spans across improved patient engagement and health outcomes, enhanced staff wellness and provider satisfaction, and a reduction in avoidable care and excess costs.

Patient Engagement and Health Outcomes

Implementing trauma-informed care can lead to improved patient engagement, better treatment adherence, and optimal health outcomes Center for Health Care Strategies. This approach encourages patients to actively participate in their healthcare journey, fostering a sense of trust in their providers. As a result, patients are more likely to adhere to their treatment plans, enhancing the effectiveness of the care provided. In the long run, this can significantly improve overall health outcomes for patients with a history of trauma.

Staff Wellness and Provider Satisfaction

Trauma-informed care also has a positive effect on staff wellness and provider satisfaction. By creating a supportive environment that acknowledges the impact of trauma on patients, this approach helps reduce burnout among healthcare providers Center for Health Care Strategies. A supportive work environment can contribute to decreased staff turnover, fostering a more cohesive and effective care team. Providers who feel understood and supported are more likely to find satisfaction in their work, leading to better patient care.

Reducing Avoidable Care and Excess Costs

By addressing the root causes of health issues, trauma-informed care can lead to a reduction in avoidable care and excess costs. This approach goes beyond treating symptoms and aims to understand and address the underlying issues related to trauma Center for Health Care Strategies. As a result, it can prevent unnecessary treatments and interventions, reducing the overall cost of care. Moreover, by improving patient engagement and treatment adherence, trauma-informed care can decrease the likelihood of recurring health issues, further reducing costs in the long term.

In conclusion, the implementation of trauma-informed care can significantly transform the healthcare landscape. By focusing on the underlying causes of health issues, it promotes a more holistic and effective approach to care. The benefits of this approach extend beyond patients to providers and the wider healthcare system, making it a key strategy for improving health outcomes and reducing costs.


[1]: https://www.traumainformedcare.chcs.org/what-is-trauma-informed-care/

[2]: https://www.aquilarecovery.com/blog/benefits-of-trauma-informed-care/

[3]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207204/

[4]: https://opentextbc.ca/peersupport/chapter/samhsas-six-principles-of-trauma-informed-care/

[5]: https://socialwork.buffalo.edu/social-research/institutes-centers/institute-on-trauma-and-trauma-informed-care/what-is-trauma-informed-care.html