Trauma-Informed Care: What It Is and Why It Matters
If you’ve done any kind of search for treatment, you’ve probably come across the term “trauma-informed” care and wondered what does it mean? Trauma-informed care is an approach to healthcare that has gained quite a bit of attention in the last few years. Unlike traditional approaches, trauma-informed care shifts the focus of treatment from simply treating one’s symptoms, to providing care that considers the impact of trauma in all facets of the client’s life. It’s an approach to treatment, where the goal is to provide the best care in a way that is respectful and supportive for clients. What makes trauma-informed care different, is that it’s not just for “trauma” treatment, it is care for everyone.
What Is Trauma-Informed Care?
Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) is an approach to treating trauma that is based on what we know about the neurocognitive response to trauma, or how the brain deals with trauma. It is not a technique to treat the trauma experience or “process trauma”. Rather, it is a broad, clinically-informed approach to help someone receive care in a way that minimizes the chances of being re-traumatized during the treatment process. (Remember, TIC assumes there is a past trauma present.)
TIC can be utilized across treatment settings, including those with a focus other than trauma specifically. For example, trauma-informed care can be especially helpful for people seeking substance abuse treatment.1 Trauma and substance abuse are often co-occurring. TIC looks deeper than just symptom management to help you do the hard work to resolve past trauma and strengthen your ability to handle cravings, stressors and other issues.
TIC involves a more expansive approach to patient care, that assumes someone is more likely than not to have a history of trauma. That may sound odd to you, especially if you think that you’ve not experienced trauma in your life.
Statistics suggest that the experience of trauma is much more common than one might think. Often, that trauma is experienced early in childhood. Some of those adverse childhood experiences (ACE) can include:
- experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect
- witnessing violence in the home or community
- having a family member attempt or die by suicide
- substance abuse in the household
- family member in the home with mental health issues
- loss or separation from a parent
According to the CDC, about 61% of adults2 have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience. One in 6 adults experienced four or more ACEs.
But trauma doesn’t just happen in childhood, trauma can also result from domestic violence, accidents and disasters, combat, or witnessing injury, violence or death experienced as an adult. About 6 in 10 men (60%) and 5 in 10 women (50%) experience at least one trauma3 in their lives. About 7-8%3 will develop PTSD from trauma.
Of course, these statistics don’t mean that you have experienced trauma, or that you’ll experience a significant reaction if you have experienced trauma. They simply reflect that there’s a lot of trauma experience out there. Not everyone has a severe trauma reaction and some people are not even aware that their experiences were traumatic. Sometimes, there are no outward signs, but a closer look can often reveal underlying trauma that is a source of distress. It is with this emerging knowledge that trauma is much more prevalent than previously thought that Trauma-Informed Care was born.
What Does Trauma-Informed Care Look Like?
Instead of waiting to find out if someone has experienced trauma, TIC recognizes and assumes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role trauma may play in a person’s life. This guiding principle shapes how care is delivered at every level. This means that everyone from the person who takes the initial call, to the clinicians, to the CEO of the organization, approach the care of each person with sensitivity and respect. Policies, procedures and practices are developed with this trauma-awareness in mind.
The over-riding goal of Trauma-Informed Care is to avoid “re-traumatizing” the person. What this means is that certain things like the way a question is phrased, or certain procedures, or treatment interventions, can inadvertently trigger memories or trauma reactions. This triggering causes the patient undo distress and can hamper their progress or even create avoidance to seeking care.
This approach doesn’t mean that your care provider won’t ask or explore trauma with you. Rather, they will help to identify and understand someone’s trauma history and their response is a crucial part of care. HOW that process happens is the key.
Trauma-informed practices are designed to deliver care in a way that is sensitive to the possibility that one has experienced trauma. For every kind of care, that process may look a little different but the goal is to gather information and provide care in a way that is sensitive and supportive, so that the patient feels psychologically safe. The focus isn’t on what’s “wrong” with you. Instead, the focus is on understanding what “happened” to you and how it relates to where you are now.
Benefits of Trauma-Informed Care
The cycle of trauma can contribute to a person’s avoidance or lack of engagement in treatment, an increase in symptoms, re-traumatization, an increased risk of relapse, withdrawal from relationships and poor treatment outcomes. By acknowledging and working with the awareness of a possible trauma, TIC can help you to learn to manage your symptoms, and help you to do the deeper work necessary to heal.
TIC is especially helpful for people with a substance abuse disorder. Co-occurring trauma is commonly seen with substance use disorders. This co-morbidity4 is associated with more significant clinical impairment, poor treatment outcomes, other mental health issues, legal and medical issues, suicidality and self-harm.
TIC encourages the use of a strength-based approach to treatment. This approach reduces the risk of re-traumatization, while respecting and understanding patient’s traumatic experiences. Once that happens, interventions that are sensitive to the patient’s experiences and needs can be identified. Recognizing past trauma is often the missing piece of treatment and one reason for lack of progress. TIC recognizes and works within the context of trauma. This approach5 results in a more effective and longer-lasting recovery.
All Points North Lodge is proud to offer a trauma-informed approach to care. Whether you’re seeking help for substance abuse, depression, or other mental health disorder, our team of expert clinicians are ready to help you take the next step towards healing. We offer programs designed to treat addictions and mental health disorders. Nestled in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, APN Lodge offers a luxury rehab experience that offers the perfect environment for healing, personal growth and recovery. Using evidence-based treatment approaches, our team of clinicians has the expertise to guide you through the process from referral through program completion.
To learn about all that the APN Lodge experience offers, reach out to one of our Contact Center team members at 866-525-9107. Let us help you find your way forward.
1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (2014). SAMHSA's concept of trauma and guidance for a trauma-informed approach. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4884. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.https://ncsacw.samhsa.gov/userfiles/files/SAMHSA_Trauma.pdf
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 8). Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/index.html
3. National Center for PTSD. (n.d.). VA.gov | Veterans affairs. Retrieved from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_adults.asp
4. Capezza, N. M., & Najavits, L. M. (2012). Rates of trauma-informed counseling at substance abuse treatment facilities: Reports from over 10,000 programs. Psychiatric Services, 63(4), 390-394. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.201000560
5. Markoff, L. S., Reed, B. G., Fallot, R. D., Elliott, D. E., & Bjelajac, P. (2005). Implementing trauma-informed alcohol and other drug and mental health services for women: lessons learned in a multisite demonstration project. The American journal of orthopsychiatry, 75(4), 525–539. https://doi.org/10.1037/0002-94220.127.116.115