Trauma-informed Care

Trauma-informed care is an essential skill for healthcare providers to prevent retraumatization. It also takes into consideration patient-centered communication and the trauma experienced in childhood, often referred to as adverse childhood experiences. Trauma-informed care and patient-centered care are important tools for service providers to use with patients who have experienced trauma including childhood trauma and human trafficking.

Trauma-informed care refers to a way of providing services, including healthcare, social services, and education, that takes into consideration the profound impact of trauma.

It employs a universal approach of treating everyone as if they may have experienced trauma at the individual-level through the careful use of language (e.g., avoiding calling an exam table a bed) and actions (e.g., empowering patients to determine the order of events in a clinical exam).1 Many institutions also have policies, procedures, and training to ensure an organizational approach where the organization makes a commitment to addressing trauma for those it serves as well as its employees.2

A trauma-informed approach is a strengths-based service delivery approach grounded in understanding and responding to the impact of trauma that emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both providers and survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.2 

A trauma-specific intervention refers to tailored interventions specifically to individuals with known trauma to redress their trauma and its sequelae.2

A trauma-informed approach incorporates the 4 “R’s”2



Realizing the widespread prevalence of trauma and understanding paths for recovery.



Recognizing how trauma affects all individuals involved with the program, organization, or system (including within its own workforce).



Respond by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices.



Seek to actively resist re-traumatization.

What can cause re-traumatization?

  • Mislabeling symptoms as personality or other mental disorders, rather than as traumatic stress reactions
  • Being overly authoritative when interacting with service participants
  • Using a confrontational approach
  • Challenging or discounting reports of abuse or other traumatic events
  • Labeling service participant’s behavior/feelings as pathological
  • Being unaware that the service participant’s traumatic history significantly affects their life

6 key principles of a trauma-informed approach2



Ensuring physical and emotional safety by maximizing control for the patient/client


Trustworthiness and Transparency

Making sure people’s desires and opinions are heard and understood

Directly addressing limits (e.g., of confidentiality)


Peer Support

Encouraging survivors of trauma to engage in mutual self-help


Collaboration and Mutuality

Recognizing everyone has a role to play

Leveling of power differentials


Empowerment, Voice, and Choice

Supporting the development of self-advocacy and self-empowerment


Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues

Recognition of the historical trauma leveraged against individuals based on culture, race/ethnicity, gender, and other marginalized identities

Trauma-informed care changes everyone’s WAY OF RESPONDING from2 

What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?

For more information on trauma-informed care trainings for your organization, please see the University of Michigan CASCAID Group.

1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. (2014)

Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services

Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 57. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4801. Rockville, MD. Retrieved May 29, 2018 from

2. Bloom, S. (n.d.)

The Sanctuary Model

Did you know?


Forced labor in the private economy generates an estimated $150 billion in illegal profits per year.


At any given time in 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery.


Their are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world.

If you are in the United States and you need help or you want to learn more about human trafficking:

Call: 1 (888) 373-7888
National Human Trafficking Hotline
SMS: 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”)
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Languages: English, Spanish, and 200 more languages

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