Creating & Maintaining a Trauma-Informed Practice
“An organization’s process of becoming trauma-informed goes well beyond the work of clinicians. This work involves everyone.”
- Karen Johnson, MSW, LCSW., Senior Director, Trauma-Informed Services, National Council for Behavioral Health
Trauma-informed care is a holistic approach to mental health treatment that recognizes the prevalence and impact of trauma on individuals and communities. It is based on the understanding that trauma can manifest in a variety of ways, including physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. Trauma-informed care is intended to promote healing and resilience by addressing the root causes of trauma, rather than simply treating its symptoms.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has developed a set of guiding principles to help organizations provide trauma-informed care.
The principles of trauma-informed care include:
- Realizing the widespread impact of trauma and understanding potential paths for recovery.
- Recognizing the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system.
- Responding by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices.
- Avoiding re-traumatization.
- Providing culturally responsive services that are respectful of diversity.
A trauma-informed approach to mental health care involves understanding the ways in which trauma can affect an individual’s physical, emotional, and cognitive functioning. This includes recognizing the signs and symptoms of trauma, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and providing appropriate treatment and support.
One key aspect of a trauma-informed approach is providing a safe and supportive environment for individuals to share their experiences in and begin the healing process. This can involve creating a space where individuals feel heard and validated and where they feel safe to talk about their experiences without judgment or stigma.
Another important aspect of trauma-informed care is providing services that are culturally responsive and sensitive to the unique needs of different communities. This can involve providing services that are tailored to the specific cultural and linguistic needs of the community and ensuring that staff are trained in cultural competency.
A trauma-informed approach to mental health care also involves addressing the root causes of trauma rather than simply treating its symptoms. This can include providing support and resources for individuals to address issues such as poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to education and healthcare.
In addition to providing direct services, a trauma-informed approach to mental health care also involves educating and training staff and community members on the impact of trauma and providing resources and support to help individuals and communities heal.
Trauma-informed care is an approach that recognizes the prevalence of trauma and its impact on an individual’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It is essential for mental health professionals to understand and implement trauma-informed practices in their therapy sessions. The six steps below are designed to guide mental health professionals in assessing whether their therapy practice is trauma-informed.
Step 1: Understand the Principles of Trauma-Informed Care
The first step in assessing your therapy practice is to understand the principles of trauma-informed care. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has developed a set of guiding principles for trauma-informed care, which include:
- Safety: Creating a safe and secure environment for clients.
- Trustworthiness: Building trust and respect with clients through transparent and ethical practices.
- Choice: Providing clients with options and opportunities to make decisions about their care.
- Collaboration: Engaging clients in the development and implementation of their care plan.
- Empowerment: Empowering clients to take control of their own recovery.
Step 2: Assess Your Current Practice
After understanding the principles of trauma-informed care, it is essential to assess your current practice to determine how well it aligns with these principles. Some questions to consider when assessing your practice include:
- Are clients’ safety and well-being prioritized in your practice?
- Are clients’ trust and respect earned through transparent and ethical practices?
- Are clients provided with options and opportunities to make decisions about their care?
- Are clients engaged in the development and implementation of their care plan?
- Are clients empowered to take control of their own recovery?
Step 3: Identify Areas for Improvement
Based on your assessment, identify areas in your practice that may not align with the principles of trauma-informed care. These areas may include communication, assessment, and treatment planning.
Step 4: Develop a Plan for Improvement
After identifying areas for improvement, develop a plan for addressing them. This plan should include specific goals, strategies, and timelines for achieving them. Remember, it is essential to involve clients in the development of this plan.
Step 5: Implement and Monitor the Plan
Implement the plan and monitor its progress. This may include regularly reviewing client feedback, tracking progress toward goals, and making adjustments as needed.
Step 6: Continuously Reflect on Your Practice
Trauma-informed care is an ongoing process. Regularly reflect on your practice and continue to assess its alignment with the principles of trauma-informed care. This will help you make necessary adjustments and improve the effectiveness of your therapy sessions.
Trauma-informed care is an essential approach for mental health professionals in addressing the needs of clients who have experienced trauma. By understanding the principles of trauma-informed care, assessing your current practice, identifying areas for improvement, developing a plan for improvement, implementing and monitoring the plan, and continuously reflecting on your practice, a mental health professional can ensure that their therapy practice is trauma-informed and provide the best care to their clients.