What is Trauma-Informed Care?

Edited by Beth Durling

Last updated April 28, 2020

Like many mental health conditions, trauma does not discriminate and impacts many individuals. Not only that, but it can also negatively affect an individual’s family, friendships, romantic relationships, career, personal finances, physical health, and day-to-day life. In some instances, trauma may lead to other troubling issues, such as substance abuse, depression, and codependency. 

If left untreated, the lasting impacts of trauma can be devastating. Trauma-informed care is a relatively new approach that applies an organizational framework to the treatment of trauma. It utilizes recognition and understanding of trauma to effectively address and respond to its impacts.

Trauma-informed care focuses on providing physical, emotional, and psychological safety to patients, providers, families, and others involved in a patient’s recovery at a rehabilitation center. This empowers trauma sufferers and helps them develop a sense of control while preventing retraumatization.

At Northbound Treatment, we’re devoted to providing our clients with compassionate care at all levels with trauma therapy. Many who struggle with addiction and substance abuse issues have also experienced trauma. Find out more about trauma-informed care here, including some background on the approach, how it works, and the six principles that guide the model.

What Does It Mean to Be Trauma-Informed?

When a provider or treatment center is trauma-informed, it means they recognize that many people have experienced trauma, even if they aren’t being treated for it. Furthermore, they acknowledge that, in order to fully heal, traumatized individuals must be understood and supported by others.

A Community Effort to Prevent Retraumatization

Some treatment approaches can unintentionally retraumatize patients. A primary component of trauma-informed care is to educate people about the effects trauma can have not only on patients but also on providers, clinical staff members, friends, families, and communities at every level. A thorough understanding of the long-term impact of trauma is a crucial first step to becoming a compassionate, trauma-informed support network.

Trauma by the Numbers

Trauma is a type of psychological distress that occurs after a person experiences a frightening or disturbing event. The event could be an individual incident or ongoing occurrences. Examples of traumatic events include sexual abuse, experiencing or witnessing violence, childhood neglect, surviving a car accident or plane crash, living through a natural disaster, exposure to war or combat, or the sudden loss of a loved one.

According to the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Center for Integrated Health Solutions, 61% of women and 61% of men in the U.S. report having been exposed to at least one traumatic event. Within the public behavioral health care sector, 90% of clients have experienced trauma. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that between 55% and 99% of women in substance abuse treatment programs have a trauma history.

Roughly one out of every three women have experienced sexual assault by a partner, and about one in six have been victims of rape or attempted rape. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) reports that one in every two women experience sexual violence in their lifetime. One in five men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime.

The CDC also reports that nearly 15% of young children experienced abuse or neglect in the past year. Every minute, roughly 20 people in the U.S. are victims of violence by an intimate partner. Within one year, this equates to over 10 million Americans. According to the National Trauma Institute, trauma is the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 1 and 46.

A trauma survivor will often suffer from emotional disturbances and mental health issues, which may include symptoms like:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Depression
  • Survivor’s guilt
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Codependency
  • Personality disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Low self-esteem
  • Relationship issues
  • Substance abuse issues
  • Drug and alcohol addiction

Trauma is a serious and widespread public health problem. Anyone can experience it, no matter a person’s age, gender, income, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation. Trauma-informed care is essential for effectively tackling the devastating impacts of trauma.

How Trauma-Informed Care Works

As we mentioned above, the first step of implementing trauma-informed care is developing an understanding of how many people have been exposed to trauma. Instead of questioning someone on whether they’ve experienced trauma, the approach relies on the assumption that they have. 

For example, a trauma-informed approach may involve:

  • Informing patients that questions about their sexual history help providers know what tests they might need
  • Explaining the purpose of physical examinations, particularly those involving contact with a person’s breasts or genital area
  • Asking patients if there is anything that might make them more comfortable during an examination or treatment session
  • Giving patients the opportunity to be accompanied by someone they trust
  • Providing a verbal or written notice before presenting potentially triggering content
  • Empowering patients with the notion that they can pause or stop a treatment session if they’re uncomfortable

For those who’ve experienced traumatic events, clinical settings can make them feel intimidated and vulnerable. A trauma-informed approach helps to ensure that all interactions, care, and provided content do not bear the risk of potential retraumatization. It also encourages patients to advocate for themselves by giving them the opportunity to explain why they might be anxious about receiving care.

The 6 Trauma-Informed Care Principles

The emotional weight of trauma is immensely heavy, and it affects virtually every aspect of a person’s life. Trauma-informed care accounts for the fact that victims of violence, sexual abuse, and other traumatic events don’t always react how others may expect them to. Through a six-pronged approach, trauma-informed care works to eliminate many of the roadblocks preventing effective treatment and healing.

The six principles of trauma-informed care include:

  • Safety
  • Trustworthiness and Transparency
  • Peer Support
  • Collaboration and Mutuality
  • Empowerment, Voice, and Choice
  • Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues

Safety

The first principle of trauma-informed care is ensuring safety for the patients, clinical staff, and an organization as a whole. This involves fostering an environment that’s physically, psychologically, and emotionally safe, which gives the message that everyone is valued and care is a top priority.

Trustworthiness and Transparency

Trauma-informed care operates under a transparent framework with the intention of developing and retaining the trust of clients, staff, family members, and anyone else involved with the organization.

Peer Support

Peer support is a critical component of the trauma-informed care model. It builds on safety and trustworthiness while boosting collaboration and encouraging people to share their stories with one another. Within the context of trauma-informed care, peers include trauma survivors, and the support component doesn’t group people by age or demographic.

Collaboration and Mutuality

For this principle, trauma-informed care aims to level out power differences among patients, care providers, clinical staff, and administrators to emphasize the notion that healing occurs when power is shared in the decision-making process. The mutuality aspect recognizes that everyone plays an important, therapeutic role in trauma treatment.

Empowerment, Voice, and Choice

Effective trauma care involves acknowledging a patient’s experiences and building upon their strengths to foster resilience and empowerment. Treatment centers must come to terms with the ways in which clients’ voices and ability to choose have historically been diminished with trauma treatment programs like accelerated resolution therapy and experiential therapy. This principle encourages clients to be decision-makers with regard to their treatment plans and empowers them to play an active role in their recovery.

Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues

Trauma-informed care requires an organization to move past stereotypes and biases based on culture, age, gender, race, sexual orientation, income, or geography. This principle incorporates processes that effectively respond to the racial, cultural, and gender needs of the individuals being served while recognizing and addressing historical trauma.

Trauma Therapy from Northbound Treatment

At Northbound Treatment, we offer residential and outpatient trauma therapy programs that adhere to the six principles of trauma-informed care. Our approach is safe, trustworthy, transparent, supportive, collaborative, empowering, and culturally sensitive. Northbound’s trauma psychotherapists partner with our clients to help them face their emotional disturbances, obtain a sense of control, and ultimately heal from their trauma.

We offer both short- and long-term treatment programs for those suffering from addiction, substance abuse, trauma, and other mental health disorders. Northbound accepts all major insurance plans, and we’re welcoming new clients every day. There’s no better time than now to begin treatment.

Contact Northbound Treatment to learn more about our trauma therapy program in Orange County. If you’re ready to start treatment, call (844) 919-0403 or fill out our online form.

To learn more, visit our blog articles on What is EMDR Therapy & How Does It Work? And Art Therapy for Trauma.

Sources:

  1. “Integrated Health COE – National Council.” Samhsa.gov. N.p., n.d, https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/trauma
  2. “Resource Guide to Trauma-Informed Human Services.” Hhs.gov. N.p., n.d., https://www.acf.hhs.gov/trauma-toolkit
  3. “Trauma-Informed Care.” Ahrq.gov. N.p., n.d., https://www.ahrq.gov/ncepcr/tools/healthier-pregnancy/fact-sheets/trauma.html
  4. “Trauma Statistics & Facts – National Trauma Institute.” Nattrauma.org. N.p., n.d. ,//www.nattrauma.org/what-is-trauma/trauma-statistics-facts/
  5. “Trauma Informed Care.” Traumainformedcareproject.org. N.p., n.d., http://www.traumainformedcareproject.org/
  6. https://ncsacw.samhsa.gov/userfiles/files/SAMHSA_Trauma.pdf
  7. Tello, Monique, and MPH. “Trauma-Informed Care: What It Is, and Why It’s Important – Harvard Health Blog.” Harvard.edu. N.p., 16 Oct. 2018., https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/trauma-informed-care-what-it-is-and-why-its-important-2018101613562
  8. Robinson, Lawrence. “Emotional and Psychological Trauma – HelpGuide.Org.” n. pag. , https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/coping-with-emotional-and-psychological-trauma.htm

Article Reviewed by Beth Durling

Beth DurlingBeth Durling BA, CADCII, ICADC is the Clinical Director of Northbound Treatment Services. She is also the proud owner of The Durling Group, Inc., a national consulting firm, where she worked closely with large scale corporations, healthcare companies, and universities, helping to enhance outcomes.

Beth founded and resided as CEO for The Center for Life Change, a non-profit drug and alcohol treatment center in Riverside County where she gained national recognition for her outcomes as a leader in the field of addiction surrounding patient care, specializing in retention strategies for both staff and patients.

She also founded The Heart Culture Academy, creating a collaborative national community of trained influencers, helping people change their relationships, their work environments and personal lives through her published Model, Heart Culture.

Beth believes individual lives can be enhanced through learned consciousness, utilizing her specialized techniques that offer long-lasting, connection-based relationships. She has toured the country speaking and distributing this message.

Beth has been writing and speaking to assist individuals and organizations through transformative processes for the last 25 years. She is the mother to two adult children, Ridge and Rachel and resides in San Clemente, California.

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