Trauma and traumatic experiences reach far and wide. They do not discriminate on age, gender, ethnicity, or class. To address the effects of trauma on individuals—including children—today, what is known as “trauma-informed care” has been developed. In order to understand this treatment model, But first, we must understand what “trauma” is before we can understand how to treat it.
Trauma and traumatic experiences reach far and wide. They do not discriminate on age, gender, ethnicity, or class. To address the effects of trauma on individuals—including children—today, what is known as “trauma-informed care” has been developed. In order to understand this treatment model, we must understand what “trauma” is before we can understand how to treat it.
If the trauma is experienced as a child, varying degrees and expressions of abuse and/or neglect are usually the two main criteria for traumatic experiences. Such traumas are also known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). According to the Journal of Psychological Services, the range of experiences may include:
When these experiences occur, an individual usually has one of three responses:
In short, trauma-informed care simply factors in the effects of trauma into the care process. Medical doctors, addiction recovery centers, child and family therapy, and many other modes of treatment can all be “trauma-informed” if they incorporate knowledge of trauma into their care programs.
According to a collaboration with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), trauma-informed care is distinguished by six major principles:
Although these principles may sound somewhat vague, they are intended to be. The flexibility and adaptive qualities of trauma-informed care are its greatest strengths. And since the cultural attitudes of most care programs are usually rooted in overall staff satisfaction, the well-being of the professional staff is often where trauma-informed care begins.
The long-term effects of trauma can take a number of different forms. Depression, substance abuse and addiction, and physical diseases are a few of the main consequences of unaddressed trauma in a person’s life. And as mentioned above, traumatic events that occur during childhood, or Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), play a large role in this.
As an example of the relationships between childhood trauma and adult substance abuse, consider the following statistics from a study on ACEs in collaboration with CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):
These data points show the extremely high numbers of individuals in addiction recovery with significant experiences of trauma. Trauma-informed care, therefore, should be a relevant if not essential aspect of not just addiction recovery treatment but other forms of therapy programs that have similar trends.
Although more research has been done on trauma-informed care in recent years, more work still needs to be done to evaluate the measurable benefits of trauma-informed care. According to a recent study in the journal for Research on Social Work Practice, the outcomes of implementing trauma-informed practices positively impacted both the organization or treatment center, as well as the recovering individuals.
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, trauma-informed care is yielding excellent results across all types of therapy and care programs. By providing supportive environments that are less likely to re-traumatize a person during their healing process, care professionals have a much better chance of retaining their client and making real progress with their healing goals.
Trauma-informed care also takes the family into consideration beyond just the classic “family therapy” model. Sometimes involving family members at the wrong time or under the wrong conditions can re-traumatize the person, which can cause major setbacks in the healing process. Trauma-informed care, however, addresses these nuances in family dynamics and approaches them with care.
Finally, two of the most important aspects of trauma-informed care for any care program are collaboration and empowerment. By retraining the brain and forming new ways of processing trauma, a person can gain so much more than just generic coping skills offered by typical theray models. Instead, a person can walk away with a personalized strategy plan for adapting their responses to trauma and being in triggering situations.