Trauma-Informed Care Explained
Individual trauma results from an incident, sequence of events, or collection of circumstances that a person encounters as physically or emotionally damaging or life-threatening. These experiences can create permanent adverse effects on the well-being of an individual, impacting them mentally, physically, socially, emotionally, or spiritually.
Trauma-Informed Care helps patients learn how to control and cope with their emotions. Therapists play a vital role in helping patients to handle their emotions. Guiding them to:
- Identify their triggers
- Manage their thoughts and reactions
- Cope with their feelings and emotions
- Cope with post-traumatic stress disorder
TIC therapy aims to raise an individual’s self-esteem. This is achieved by showing the patient that they are not alone in their situation. This, in turn, increases the patient’s confidence in the future and in their ability to handle stress effectively.
Types of Trauma
Trauma can be experienced in many forms. Here are common examples of various types of trauma.
This is when the feeling of danger induces the fight/flight stress response, which can include external sensations (e.g., smell, sound, and sight) and internal sensations (e.g., panic, terror, breathlessness, and feeling frozen). The dynamic nature of trauma, from the intense physical and emotional responses that go along with it, is the essence of the complexity of traumatic stress.
This is the pervasive impact, including developmental and behavioral sequelae, of exposure to multiple, simultaneous, and/or prolonged traumatic events, resulting in the emotional disturbances, along with a feeling of unsafety and the inability to detect or respond to danger cues. These feelings and behaviors can produce a domino effect and facilitate subsequent and repeated trauma. This type of trauma is often perpetuated by a person who should be trusted.
This refers to the recurrence of traumatic stress symptoms upon exposure to multiple traumatic events – a major issue for survivors due to their compounded risk for higher rates of re-traumatization, as well as more severe and chronic trauma-related reactions. This term also has been used to refer to re-experiencing traumatic stress symptoms when a new situation is contextually similar in some way to the prior trauma(s) (e.g., certain feelings/emotions of being trapped; certain smells, sounds or tactile feelings; certain interactions with others; etc.).
SAMHSA’s 6 Key Principles of Trauma-Informed Approach
According to the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a trauma-informed approach reflects adherence to 6 key principles rather than a prescribed set of practices or procedures. These principles may be generalizable across multiple types of settings, although terminology and application may setting- or sector-specific:
- Trustworthiness and transparency
- Peer support
- Collaboration and mutuality
- Empowerment, voice, and choice
- Cultural, historical and gender issues
From a trauma-informed perspective, it is critical to promote the concepts of resilience, survival, and empowerment in those individuals and families impacted by trauma. It is equally important, however, to discover the interrelation between the traumatic experience(s) and behaviors and adaptations of the trauma such as anxiety, stress, avoidance, isolation, withdrawal, substance abuse, eating disorders, and depression.
The Vast Impact of Trauma
Trauma has the capacity to impact everyone, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, psychosocial background, sexual orientation, or geographic location. Affecting individuals, families, communities, groups, generations, and cultures, trauma has the capacity to devastate the resources that an individual or community uses to cope.
Trauma evokes a range of emotions, often feelings of helplessness, fear, or vulnerability. A traumatic event can be experienced directly or indirectly. From feeling threatened to hearing about a traumatic event to witnessing a traumatic event, the impact of trauma is far-reaching. Traumatic events can be human made or products of nature. It is also important to remember that a traumatic event can be experienced differently from person to person. In many cases, two people will experience a traumatic event in completely different manners.
Trauma and Substance Use Disorders
When exposed to a traumatic experience, particularly during childhood, the possibility of developing a substance use disorder (SUD) increases. This can result in substance abuse and/or substance dependency. In addition, people suffering from substance use disorders are also at risk for developing mood-related psychopathology such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
In many studies, the level of substance abuse is closely linked to rates of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse in childhood, in addition to current symptoms of PTSD. According to research from the National Survey of Adolescents, teens who had been physically or sexually abused were three times more likely to report past or current substance abuse compared to those with no history of trauma.
Substance abuse also increases the likelihood for a trauma to occur. When an individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, their impaired judgement may lead to accidents or dangerous situations. A history of trauma often creates a vicious cycle of children who grow up to rely on drugs or alcohol to ease the pain of their childhood trauma.