What have you heard about Trauma Informed Care? What is it and what does it mean?
First, let’s understand what trauma is. According to the American Psychiatric Association (1987), psychological trauma is an occurrence which is outside the scope of everyday human experience and which would be notably distressing to almost anyone.
With this definition in mind, how would we then define Trauma Informed Care?
Trauma Informed Care is an organizational structure and treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma. Trauma Informed Care emphasizes physical, psychological and emotional safety for both service consumers (patients/clients) and providers, and it helps survivors of trauma rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.
In practice, it is to stop thinking and asking “What is wrong with this person?” and begin to think and ask “What has happened to this person?” In other words, trauma informed care is interacting with care receivers from a strength perspective rather than a deficit perspective.
There are Five Guiding Principles of Trauma Informed Care (Fallot & Harris, 2006)
Safety—Ensuring physical and emotional safety for clients and staff
Trustworthiness—Maximizing trust, ensuring clear expectations and consistent boundaries
Choice—Making patients choice and control a priority
Collaboration—Sharing power with patients, working together
Empowerment—Making patient empowerment and skill building a priority
These principles help to inform and guide an organization to know and assess the extent that the agency is trauma informed. These principles apply both to the interactions between staff and the interactions between staff and clients: recognizing that trauma exist, and using approaches to avoid re- traumatization of those had experienced trauma. The principles must be adhered to in order for a program to be considered trauma informed.
It is important to note how common trauma is, that everyone may have experienced some form of trauma at some point in life, or may have experienced something that has negatively impacted them, regardless of age, culture, gender, and class. Understanding the impact of trauma is an important first step in becoming a compassionate and supportive community, being trauma informed. What are you doing to be trauma informed? In what way is your organization providing Trauma Informed Care?
The Five Guiding Principles of Trauma Informed Care are not just for some people or organizations. Its application should be viewed and practiced as a universal approach. This will help bring about resiliency and post-traumatic growth to individuals as well as organizations.
Trauma-Informed Care Resources