What Is Trauma-Informed Care?
A trauma-informed approach, which is often referred to as Trauma-Informed Care, or TIC, recognizes that trauma exists and has a negative impact on children, youth, and adults. TIC changes an organization’s assumptions by allowing them to take into consideration a person’s traumatic experiences. TIC tries to create a sense of safety for everyone inside the organization as well as for the people they come in contact with.
Becoming trauma-informed requires an organization to re‐examine previous policies and procedures that could be improved upon to make participants feel more comfortable and secure. It equips staff to be more empathetic and non‐judgmental, as well as encourages them to create a more welcoming physical environment. Overall, becoming trauma-informed involves minimizing perceived threats, avoiding re-traumatization, and supporting recovery.
What Is Trauma?
Trauma is the response to a disturbing or deeply distressing event that is challenging for an individual to cope. It can cause feelings of helplessness, a lack of self-awareness, and the inability to effectively process emotions and experiences. Trauma can cause lasting effects on the individual’s physical, mental, behavioral, social, and/or spiritual well-being.
Examples of experiences that are considered to be traumatic are:
- Childhood neglect
- Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse
- Living with a family member with mental health or substance use disorders
- Violence in the community, war, or terrorism
- Racism, discrimination, and oppression
- Sudden separation from a loved one or death
The Effects of Trauma on Health
In the ACE Study, we learn that the more a child is exposed to stressful and adverse childhood experiences, the greater that child’s risk for chronic health conditions and health-risk behaviors becomes. This study developed a self-assessment that asks people to indicate the number of traumatic events they’ve experienced prior to the age of 18. It also provides an “ACE score” that consists of the sum of each traumatic experience question answered with “yes”. Compared to people who scored a zero on this self-assessment, individuals with an ACE score of 4 or more were approximately:
- 2x as likely to smoke
- 2.5x more likely to have sexually transmitted diseases
- 4x more likely to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- 7x more likely to consider themselves an alcoholic
- 10x as likely to have injected street drugs
- 12x as likely to have attempted suicide
How Trauma Affects the Brain
Experiencing traumatic experiences during your childhood can actually change a person’s brain structure, resulting in long-term physical and behavioral health problems. Experiencing trauma causes the body to produce cortisol and adrenaline, which activates our body’s normal protective processes of fight, flight, or freeze.
The Importance of Being Trauma-Informed
As a society, it is important that being trauma-informed becomes the standard, not the exception. Using trauma-informed approaches in work, family, community, and everyday life can positively impact the lives of everyone involved.
Most importantly, being trauma-informed can help save lives as well as create a welcoming, caring, and comforting environment that fosters friendships and life-long connections.