What Is Trauma-Informed Care?

Traumatic experiences can be life-changing. It is well known that these experiences can have long-term health effects. In addition to mental health challenges, traumatic experiences can lead to substance use disorders and chronic health conditions 1. While most doctors are able to identify physical illnesses in their patients, many do not consider how trauma might play a role in informing their care practices.

What is trauma-informed care?

This type of care is a different approach to healthcare. It factors in the possibility that a person may have experienced a traumatic event that could be contributing to their health concerns. It emphasizes understanding, respecting, and responding to the effects of trauma. This understanding is then applied to all levels of a person’s care.2

What are the benefits of trauma-informed care?

Trauma-informed care is an approach that can improve many aspects of a person’s health. This is because it:2

  • Addresses any potential re-traumatizing experiences
  • Establishes a trauma care team
  • Ensures commitment to a trauma-informed culture of care
  • Conducts early, respectful trauma screening and assessment for all patients
  • Involves doctors and their patients in the planning of care services

The 5 principles of trauma-informed care

Healthcare providers are guided by these 5 basic principles:2,3

  1. Safety – Creating spaces where people feel physically and emotionally safe
  2. Choice – People have control over their own care, and their experiences are respected
  3. Collaboration – Doctors and patients work together and share in the decision-making process
  4. Trustworthiness – Doctors are honest and clear when explaining treatment options and concerns about care
  5. Empowerment – A person’s strengths, rather than their weakness or issues stemming from their traumatic experiences, are emphasized

Things to consider

It is important to understand that trauma-informed care is not the same as trauma-specific care. It does not try to heal trauma or even address the specific trauma directly. Delivering this type of informed care requires the commitment of all members of a healthcare team – from office staff to nurses to doctors. They must all agree to provide compassionate, effective care for all people who have experienced past trauma.2

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