Understanding Trauma-Based Care: A Comprehensive Guide

Trauma-based care (TIC) is an approach in the field of human services that assumes that a person is more likely to have a history of trauma than not. It recognizes the physical, social and emotional impact of trauma on the individual, as well as on the professionals who help them. Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) is distinct from trauma-specific interventions or treatments that are specifically designed to address the consequences of trauma and facilitate healing. The six key principles of a trauma-based approach and trauma-specific interventions address the consequences of trauma and facilitate healing.

This approach can be implemented in any type of environment or service organization. Agencies should involve staff members who work with trauma in developing informal and formal institutional practices and procedures to prevent or address secondary trauma. Trauma-based services lay the foundation on which people can begin to explore the role of trauma in their lives; these services can also help determine how best to approach and adapt interventions to meet their needs. A system that uses a trauma-based approach also fully integrates trauma knowledge into all aspects of services and empowers staff to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma and, therefore, avoid any possibility of re-traumatization.

This TIP supports a trauma-based model of care; this model emphasizes the need for behavioral health professionals and organizations to recognize the prevalence and widespread impact of trauma on the lives of people they care for and develop services that are sensitive to trauma or who respond to trauma. Secondary trauma prevention strategies can be intertwined with current infrastructure (for example, at the organizational or systemic level, Trauma-Informed Care changes organizational culture to emphasize respect and appropriate response to the effects of trauma at all levels). At the most basic level, “trauma-based approaches” are ways of helping people who recognize the specific needs they may have as a result of past or ongoing trauma. For a comprehensive review of the impact of trauma on quality of life and health and among people with mental and substance use disorders, see part 3 of this advice, the online literature review.

Trauma-Informed Care understands and considers the pervasive nature of trauma and promotes healing and recovery environments rather than practices and services that can unknowingly re-traumatize. The developer suggests that this model provides practical skills that trauma survivors and their families can use to reduce and regulate extreme emotions, manage the intrusive traumatic memories experienced in daily life, and restore information processing capacity and memory. Trauma can affect people of all races, ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, genders, psychosocial backgrounds, and geographical regions.

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