Understanding Trauma Informed Care

Understanding Trauma Informed Care

What is Trauma Informed Care?

Authored by Jane Squire MSc

Edited by Hugh Soames B.A.

Reviewed by Michael Por, MD

An individual who has experienced a traumatic event, whether that experience is visible or not, can find medical and psychological offices to be frightening places. A traumatic reaction can be a normal way for a person to respond to an unusual situation.


Therefore, it can be difficult to get an individual to convey information about their traumatic experience. Individuals may even deny a traumatic episode occurred to prevent themselves from reimagining the past.1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5851387/ Trauma can be a large barrier in the medical field that prevents individuals from receiving the psychiatric help and therapeutic treatment they need.


Clients refrain from talking about past traumatic experience for several reasons including fear, shame, and guilt. Building trust between practitioner and client can take time and is important to foster understanding between the pair.


An important factor in the treatment of trauma is to understand individuals do not need to be continuously asked and surveyed about their experience(s). Practitioners should recognize that trauma may have occurred to the individuals at least once and act accordingly to the client’s history.


Trauma Informed Care allows clients to disclose information about their experiences if they choose to instead of a practitioner attempting to pry frightening traumatic stories out of them. It allows medical and therapeutic practitioners to place an awareness of the client’s past trauma into any medical care given.


Trauma Informed Care is a practice that promotes a culture of safety, empowerment, and healing. The questioning and requests made by medical an therapeutic personnel can lead to anxiety, flashbacks, and medical avoidance by individuals who experienced trauma.


How does Trauma Informed Care work?


One of the initial tasks a practitioner must recognize is how commonplace trauma is and how anyone can experience it. It is important to remember that clients do not need to be bombarded with questions about their past experiences. Medical personnel should simply assume that individuals have a history of trauma, of various degree, and respond appropriately.


So, how do you approach an individual using Trauma Informed Care? One of the ways to approach a client is to explain why specific sensitive questions are being asked.2https://www.cdc.gov/cpr/infographics/6_principles_trauma_info.htm If a physical exam or test needs to be completed upon admission to treatment, then practitioners should clarify why it is to occur.3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6088388/  Medical experiences can also be extremely anxiety inducing. For individuals who have experienced trauma in their past, these experiences can be crippling.


Medical providers and understanding


Medical providers such as external consultant G.P.s visiting a residential rehab are in an important position. Not only are they able to examine, treat, and take care of a client, but they have the ability to make a scary situation easier on the patient. This is magnified by people who have experienced trauma.


General Practitioners need to understand that many of their patients have experienced physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Serious illnesses and mental health problems may have also occurred in the individuals. Empathy and reassurance are two key elements that all medical providers should offer clients. A negative experience in a doctor’s office, hospital, or urgent care unit could prevent a person from returning to seek further medical attention.


Clients with a history of trauma


While some individuals can shake off the shackles of past trauma and live without major repercussions, not everyone can. Although resilience can be built in people who experience trauma, others are beaten down and can be triggered by uncomfortable situations. Some trauma sufferers can recognize the past issues they experienced and these individuals may understand their lives have been affected, yet may not realize their past is causing present problems.


Toxic stress is one of the major impacts young people face, especially in a teenage recovery clinic and individuals experience severe stress that can almost be impossible to manage. When young clients do not have an appropriate support network built, it worsens the stress making it untenable. Young people who experience toxic stress can experience permanent physiological and psychological changes. In addition, an ongoing overreaction to stressful situations can develop.


According to a study completed by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente4https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/acestudy/about.html of individuals who suffered “childhood trauma, stress, and maltreatment, and health and well-being later in life. Almost two-thirds of the participants (both men and women) reported at least one childhood experience of physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or family dysfunction, and more than one of five reported three or more such experiences.”


Building an environment to cope with trauma


Trauma is linked to behavioral health problems. The trauma an individual faced as a child or teenager can manifest into behavior issues as they grow older. Recognizing this can enable professionals and residential rehab programs to establish an environment that focuses on trauma informed care. A Trauma Informed Care environment allows compassion and empathy to improve the overall support of clients.


Developing a Trauma Informed Care environment is not achieved overnight and by any singular technique. A Trauma Informed Care approach is constantly built, worked on, and maintained and practitioners must continually stay abreast of cultural changes and be sensitive toward individuals.


Through Trauma Informed Care, clients can receive expert care and the environment allows them to get the appropriate support needed.

References: Trauma Informed Care

1. Miller A. The drama of the gifted child. The search for the true self. New York, NY: Basic Books; 1997. []

2. Ardino V. Trauma-informed care: is cultural competence a viable solution for efficient policy strategies? Clin Neuropsychiatry. 2014;11(1):45–51. []

3. Trauma-informed. The trauma toolkit. 2nd ed. Winnipeg, MB: Klinic Community Health Centre; 2013. Available from: http://trauma-informed.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Trauma-informed_Toolkit.pdf. []

4. Esaki N, Larkin H (2013) Prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among child service providers. Families in Society, 94: 31–7. []

5. Freuh C, Knapp R, Cusack K, et al. (2005) Patients’ reports of traumatic or harmful experiences within the psychiatric setting. Psychiatric Services, 56: 1123–33. [PubMed] []

6. Mead S, McNeil C (2006) Peer support: what makes it unique? International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation, 10: 29–37. []

7. Van der Kolk B (2014) The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma. Penguin Books. []

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What is Trauma Informed Care
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What is Trauma Informed Care
An individual who has experienced a traumatic event, whether that experience is visible or not, can find medical and psychological offices to be frightening places. A traumatic reaction can be a normal way for a person to respond to an unusual situation.
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Worlds Best Rehab
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