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 the organization touches, whether or not they have experienced trauma. Becoming trauma-informed requires an organization to re‐examine policies and procedures that may be causing participants to feel a loss of control. Additionally, it trains staff to be welcoming and non‐judgmental, and to modify physical environments. Becoming trauma-informed also 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 makes it a challenge for an individual’s ability to cope. It also can cause the feelings of helplessness, a lack of sense of self, and the inability to effectively feel the large scope of emotions and experiences. The effects of trauma result in lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, emotional, social, and/or spiritual well-being. Experiences that are considered to be traumatic are:
  • Poverty
  • 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 this 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.