According to the American Psychological Association, trauma is defined as an emotional response to an event. These events can be accidents, sexual assault, natural disasters, or any other instance that caused or continue to cause distress. While some of the events can be single instances, trauma can also be a result of long-term abuse. The best way to help an individual suffering from trauma is to work with a psychological professional who understands a trauma-informed care approach.1
If the individual is reacting to a single event, they may experience shock and denial. Long-term symptoms may include unpredictable and uncontrollable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and physical symptoms such as headaches or nausea, among other symptoms.
As a therapy provider, understanding the history of trauma is vital to providing trauma-informed care. Several types of this issue may impact an individual, and all types can have negative impacts on someone’s life and emotions. It does not matter the type of trauma or how long the trauma ensued, it is a serious mental health challenge and should be treated as such.
Adverse Childhood Experiences
Adverse childhood experiences, also known as ACEs, are traumatic experiences an individual faces as a child. ACE’s can be a variety of things but most commonly include experiences like domestic abuse in the home, food instability, or the death of a parent.2
One type of trauma is natural disasters. Some examples of natural events may include but are not limited to:
Accidents and Technological Catastrophes
Accidents and technical catastrophes can include several types of traumatic experiences. Typically, these experiences are due to some sort of technological downfall or unintentional act. However, these accidents can also be caused by humans even though they are unintentional. Some examples include:
Intentional acts that may cause traumatic experiences are most associated with forms of abuse. However, intentional acts can also include warfare. The difference between an intentional act and naturally caused or accidental traumatic instances is that it was intentionally caused by other people. In this case, there is no accident, and the trauma was inflicted by another person. Some examples of intentional acts that may lead to a trauma response include:3
At the most basic level, trauma-informed care is an approach that treats every individual as if they have experienced some form of trauma in their past. Additionally, trauma-informed care also recognizes that trauma may be present with various symptoms and acknowledges that it can play a significant role in an individual’s life.
Furthermore, trauma-informed care assumes that it is not just the clients that may experience trauma; staff members may also have a history of trauma and it is important to recognize this aspect in every individual. For that reason, trauma-informed care has become a leading approach in supporting individuals in the human services field.4
Five guiding principles create the framework for trauma-informed care. By implementing these guiding principles into trauma care, staff members can work to reduce any likelihood of re-traumatization. Additionally, all principles are generalizable across many different service settings. This factor means that they can be incorporated into any type of trauma center to help individuals heal and learn to recognize their trauma.
The five guiding principles of trauma-informed care include safety, trust, peer support, and empowerment. With these guiding principles, individuals who undergo trauma-informed care at a trauma center or other treatment facility can begin to heal from past traumatic experiences.
The first principle of trauma-informed care includes safety. The safety principle simply ensures that the individual feels safe both physically and emotionally. That said, not only must the individual feel safe in the environment they are in, but they must feel safe enough to talk about their experiences. It involves creating safe common areas and a welcoming atmosphere that allows an individual to feel that they are being respected.
Additionally, trust or trustworthiness is an important aspect of trauma-informed care. Once someone understands that the human service provider is trustworthy, they may feel safer in talking about their past experiences, involving establishing clear boundaries and expectations. It also involves maintaining specific boundaries and making sure that the relationship between the client and provider is professional and respectful.
Collaboration, also known as peer support, means that an individual feels as though they are in an environment where they are part of making decisions about their care. It also means that the power is shared, and it does not lie specifically in the provider. This aspect is important because it will give the client the feeling that they are in control of their treatment and healing.
Empowerment may be one of the most important tenants of trauma-informed care. Empowering someone means that they are given validation and affirmation regarding their feelings and experiences. An individual should never feel as though they are being disregarded or their experiences do not matter. Empowerment also means that the individual can take their healing into their hands and begin to acknowledge and heal from trauma.
Finally, choice is an important aspect of trauma-informed care. Because trauma can come in all shapes and forms, giving an individual choice and control is important for healing. Clients must understand that they have their rights and can make decisions regarding their healing process.4
Holistic treatment refers to the practice of treating the entire individual. For example, this treatment addresses an individual’s past, present, emotional responses, environment, family, and other factors that impact their life. With holistic treatment, the provider considers the individual’s entire experience and crafts a plan that is directly tailored to their individual needs. Trauma-informed care considers all possible triggers to avoid re-traumatization.
Trauma-informed care assumes that every individual may have encountered some form of trauma in their life. For that reason, trauma-informed care typically includes every single person within a treatment facility. That said, every person can benefit from trauma-informed care.
A trauma-informed approach in a therapy setting is important to the healing of the individual who experienced the traumatic event. By incorporating this care, providers can ensure that they are not engaging in re-traumatization and that they are helping the individual recognize their trauma and start the healing process.
The first step is to realize that an individual has trauma and help them understand how that trauma impacts themselves, their families, their community, groups, and even organizations. Oftentimes, it is done through the implementation of coping strategies and evaluating haul the past trauma is impacting the present.
Next, the treatment center or treatment team can help an individual recognize their signs of trauma. Because trauma responses can have a variety of symptoms, it is important to use screening and assessments to help people recognize when they’re being impacted by their trauma.
Finally, trauma-informed care must be applied to all areas of functioning. Individuals who experience trauma can be impacted in a variety of ways, and even staff members must be careful to not experience secondary trauma. Practitioners can use a variety of evidence-based practices to help the individual in the recovery process.
One of the purposes of using trauma-informed care is to avoid re-traumatization. Re-traumatization is when a situation or environment resembles an individual’s past or current trauma. The re-traumatization event can either be literal or symbolic. Regardless, it incites feelings and reactions that were associated with the past trauma.
The potential for a re-traumatization event exists at nearly all levels of any system. Typically, re-traumatization is unintentional, which is why trauma-informed care is so important. It means that care providers understand that trauma comes in all forms and need to be careful of potential triggers.4
There are several models that practitioners can follow for addiction and trauma treatment. Below are a couple of the most popular treatment models for psychological trauma and other types.
Addiction and Trauma Recovery Model (ATRIUM) includes twelve sessions for groups and individuals alike. It uses recovery groups as a starting point for healing and brings together peer support, psychosocial education, interpersonal skills training, meditation, creative expression, spirituality, and commonality.5
Seeking Safety is a trauma-informed therapy model for individuals who experienced trauma, PTSD, and substance use. This approach uses cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal, and case management content areas to help individuals recover from their traumatic experiences. This trauma care can be used in a variety of settings and with many different groups of people.6
Trauma Recovery and Empowerment (TREM) is a model that is specifically aimed to help individuals who have experienced physical or sexual violence. There are two separate models designed to help both males and females recover from a traumatic experience.7
Triad is a model that is specifically designed to help women who experience substance abuse, mental health, trauma, and a history of violence. These interventions can help women who have mental health challenges and co-occurring traumatic responses recover and heal from their past experiences.8
Helping Women Recover is a project that aids women who have experienced past traumas and substance abuse. By using data-informed interventions, this program can help women overcome mental health challenges, substance abuse, and past trauma.9
If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
623-523-4748 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.