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What Are the Principles of Trauma-Informed Care?

Everyone plays a part in healing people with trauma. Even non-therapists can participate in someone else’s recovery. However, these efforts should be guided by the principles of trauma-informed care.

First responders, law enforcement officers, service providers, and support staff can help improve health outcomes and patient engagement by implementing a trauma-informed approach.

Let’s take a closer look at the fundamental principles and benefits of trauma-informed care.

What Is Trauma-informed Care?

Trauma-informed care is an approach to healing and recovery that takes a comprehensive look at a patient’s lived experiences. Instead of focusing on the problem at hand, it considers the patient’s entire life situation.

This approach then identifies trauma symptoms so that the service provider can better adapt and respond to its effects. In trauma-informed therapy, the healthcare provider not only tries to change problematic behaviour, but also safely addresses the underlying traumas that trigger them.

Trauma-informed care recognizes that unique experiences require unique treatments. The goal is to provide the most appropriate care for the patient.

Keep in mind that while trauma-informed care acknowledges the existence of trauma, it is not meant to treat its effects. Instead, this approach promotes continuous recovery, minimizes long-term harm, and helps prevent retraumatizing patients.

6 Principles of Trauma-Informed Care

This infographic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) illustrates the core principles of trauma-informed care.
Principles of trauma-informed care cheat sheet by CDC and SAMHSA

Each principle refers to an action that promotes a trauma-sensitive environment.

    1. Safety

The organization, service providers, and the people receiving care must all feel physically and psychologically safe. This means creating a respectful space that honours boundaries and protects the dignity of the individual. It should also promote positive interpersonal interactions among patients, service providers, and others involved in the healing process.

    2. Trustworthiness and Transparency

Transparency regarding actions and decisions must be maintained. For example, having clear definitions of boundaries helps build and preserve trust. It’s also important to have individual and collective accountability.

    3. Peer Support

Peer support empowers and promotes healing. It also helps establish trust and enhances the feeling of safety. This means that interactions are not limited to that between a patient and a practitioner, and instead, group sessions where patients can interact with their peers are a key focus.

    4. Collaboration and Mutuality

In trauma-informed care, mutual experiences are recognized and may be used to provide support to one another. This helps reduce isolation and encourage adherence to treatment plans. Patients also have an active role in their healing, where they get to communicate their feedback and help shape their course of treatment.

    5. Empowerment and Choice

For healing to take place, patients should have the freedom to make decisions about their care. They should also have the opportunity to develop new skills and access appropriate resources and services. Instead of focusing on perceived deficits, a wide range of options should be available to people receiving care.

a person receiving support in a group therapy setting

    6. Cultural, Historical and Gender Issues

Trauma-informed care does not happen in isolation, as these issues can all influence a patient’s recovery. Organizations, communities, and service providers must overcome stereotypes and biases while honouring historical trauma and cultural connections.

The Importance of Trauma-Informed Care

How does this approach help service providers such as health practitioners, child protection workers, and law enforcement officers? Here some of the benefits offered by this holistic approach:

  • Understand that certain behaviours may come from past trauma
  • Avoid unintentionally triggering clients or patients when they extend help
  • Prevent misplaced blame and judgment on the patient
  • Connect certain behaviours with broader issues like racism, discrimination, violence, and financial instability
  • Develop better policies and reduce risks of retraumatization and future trauma

Practicing trauma-informed care does not require knowing the exact details of the trauma. This makes it possible to provide safe care even to patients with complicated histories or when confidentiality is an issue.

Another benefit of this approach is that patients often feel better about seeking help when they need it. This helps prevent further trauma, especially in cases of abuse or violence.

The advantages of this approach are not limited to trauma sufferers. It also has a positive impact on everyone involved—clients, service providers, support staff, relatives, and friends. Even patients who have never experienced trauma can reap the benefits of this type of care.

How Trauma Affects Individuals

During and after a traumatic event, the patient experiences mental and physical stress that can make it difficult to recover. Trauma can also cause neurobiological changes in a patient. These changes can adversely affect future behaviour and quality of life.

 a girl looks at herself in a mirror

For example, patients with history of emotional and physical abuse may develop mental health issues and chronic pain. They may also find it difficult to engage in intimate relationships or trust people. Trauma can also encourage the patient to adopt unhealthy coping strategies such as self-harm or addiction.

If an organization or service provider is not careful, recovered patients can suffer from retraumatization. Retraumatization after recovery can bring on the same stresses the patient has suffered the first time. Not only that, but it may cause further harm to the patient as they relive the adverse experience and engage in harmful behaviour.

This is why trauma-informed care is essential in recovery.

Trauma-Informed Therapy: The Road to Recovery

Trauma-informed therapy can improve one’s recovery even if the patient does not know or believe that they have trauma. This is useful for patients dealing with self-destructive behaviour such as addiction, which can cause additional physical trauma by encouraging sufferers to take impulsive risks.

If you or someone you know is suffering from trauma, it’s vital to get professional help as soon as possible. It is key to preserving health and life.

For trauma-related addiction and addiction in general, Freedom From Addiction implements trauma-informed therapy during treatments as part of a holistic recovery program.

Call us now or leave a message to learn more about how you or your loved one can receive trauma-informed care during your addiction treatment. You can finally start anew, free from addiction.


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