What does it mean to be trauma-informed?

Trauma-Informed Care (TIC)

This information is adapted from SAMHSA’s Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services: Quick Guide for Clinicians. Being Trauma-informed means to:

  • Recognize the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) / trauma among all people
  • Recognize that many behaviors and symptoms are the result of traumatic experiences
  • Recognize that being treated with respect and kindness – and being empowered with choices – are key in helping people recover from traumatic experiences

The goal of trauma-informed care is to avoid re-traumatizing someone. “Re-traumatizing refers to inadvertently recreating some conditions of a persons’ previous trauma, causing them to relive it in the moment.” Trauma-informed care aims to help people find meaning and purpose in their lives, fulfill valued roles and engage in a life in a community of their choosing, see themselves as more than their trauma(s), help people identify and pursue avenues to reducing distress and problems in their lives and exercise personal autonomy and self-determination in making choices. Trauma-informed care means shifting from the medical question of “What’s wrong with you?” to the trauma-informed question of “What’s happened to you?”

Trauma-Informed Principles

While some trauma-informed principles are specific to clinicians, the overall goal and many of the principles can be adapted by anyone. Trauma-informed principles include:

  • Promote trauma awareness and understanding
  • Recognize that trauma-related symptoms and behaviors originate from adapting to traumatic responses
  • View trauma in the context of individuals’ environments
  • Minimize the risk of re-traumatization or replicating prior trauma dynamics
  • Create a safe environment
  • Identify recovery from trauma as a primary goal
  • Support control, choice, and autonomy
  • Create collaborative relationships and participation opportunities
  • Familiarize clients with trauma-informed services
  • Conduct universal routine trauma screening
  • View trauma through a sociocultural lens
  • Use a strengths-focused perspective to promote resilience
  • Foster trauma-resistant skills
  • Show organizational and administrative commitment to TIC
  • Develop strategies to address secondary trauma and promote self-care
  • Provide hope and believe recovery is possible



SAMHSA’s Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services: Quick Guide for Clinicians

SMI Adviser Tip: We often hear references to trauma-informed care without a clear idea of what that entails. Can you suggest a resource with a clear definition of trauma-informed care and how to implement it?

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