Many people seeking support and undergoing treatment in behavioural health settings have a history of trauma, although they may not connect their current difficulties with the impact of trauma in their lives. 

Likewise, their caregivers may not recognise that a client’s presenting problems could be related to a history of trauma. 

This can further mean that practitioners don’t ask questions relating to a client’s history of trauma, or they may feel unprepared or unable to initiate trauma-related treatments, either through a lack of agency resources, or due to their lack of training and consequent unpreparedness.

Trauma-informed care seeks to address these issues by creating a supportive and healing environment. It is a specific approach to working with people who have experienced trauma. It recognises the impact that trauma can have on a person’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being, and seeks to create a safe and supportive environment for healing and recovery. There are five key principles that underpin this approach:

  1. Safety: Ensuring that the environment is physically and emotionally safe for the individual is essential. This includes creating a space that is free from any potential triggers or sources of trauma, and providing support and resources to help the individual feel secure.
  2. Trustworthiness: Building trust with the individual is important in order to establish a safe and supportive relationship. This involves being transparent and honest, maintaining confidentiality, and demonstrating respect and empathy.
  3. Choice: Giving individuals the power to make their own decisions and choices, within the limits of their situation, helps to promote autonomy and self-determination. This can be especially important for individuals who have experienced trauma, as it can help to restore a sense of control and agency.
  4. Collaboration: Working collaboratively with the individual, rather than imposing treatment or services on them, is key to the trauma-informed approach. This means involving the individual in the planning and decision-making process, and considering their unique needs and preferences.
  5. Empowerment: Empowering individuals to take an active role in their own healing and recovery process is essential. This can involve providing education and resources, as well as supporting individuals to set and work towards their own goals.

The goal of trauma-informed care is to create a supportive and safe environment that recognises the impact of trauma and promotes healing and recovery. By following these five principles, helping professionals can create a more responsive and effective approach to care for people who have experienced trauma.

Further resources

  1. Trauma-Informed Approach and Trauma-Specific Interventions by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This resource provides an overview of trauma-informed care and includes information on the principles and key elements of a trauma-informed approach, as well as guidance on implementing trauma-specific interventions.
  2. Trauma-Informed Care: An Overview by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). This resource provides an introduction to trauma-informed care and explains how it differs from traditional approaches to care. It also includes information on the key principles and elements of a trauma-informed approach, as well as resources and tools for implementing trauma-informed care.
  3. Trauma-Informed Care: A Primer by the National Council for Behavioral Health. This resource provides an overview of trauma-informed care and discusses the importance of recognizing and addressing the impact of trauma in healthcare and other settings. It includes information on the principles of trauma-informed care, as well as guidance on implementing a trauma-informed approach in practice.