24 Hour Helpline: (888) 450-2701

What is Trauma Informed Care and Why is it Important?

a woman with trauma being treated by a medical expert from a rehab center

Trauma informed care is an approach to healthcare and mental healthcare that is rapidly gaining ground in medical communities. However, if you’re looking for treatment options, you need to know what it is before you can decide if it’s the approach you want to look for in treatment. Otherwise, trauma informed care is just a buzzword.

At its heart, trauma-informed care is an approach to healthcare and mental healthcare that places emphasis on understanding, respecting, and responding to the effects of trauma on the patient. This means understanding how past trauma influenced the mental health of the person today, understanding re-traumatization, and working to look at underlying problems as a cause.

In short, it’s the shift from approaching treatment as “what’s wrong” and curing symptoms to “What happened” and curing causes.

What is Trauma Informed Care?

In most cases, trauma informed care primarily works out to an approach of training healthcare staff to approach patients in the right way. Shifting to an inclusive, safe, and caring environment starts by educating and empowering staff to look at problems in the right way, to treat patients in the right way, and to approach treatment in the right way.

  • A trauma-informed approach to treatment, where the patient’s mental health history is taken into account as part of their treatment. E.g., understanding that current symptoms such as anxiety, substance use disorders, or even physical symptoms like heartburn, may be a side-effect of trauma.
  • Promoting mindfulness and stress coping techniques such as yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and physical activity
  • Creating a safe environment where emotional support is the norm and people feel safe to share about trauma and emotional hurt
  • An active approach to treat underlying trauma using a framework appropriate for the form of trauma. For example, the frameworks for domestic violence trauma involve promoting emotional safety, restoring choice and control, facilitating relationships and connections, providing support, and building on strengths and skills to improve feelings of autonomy. On their own, these treatments don’t do enough because they often don’t treat symptoms that can get in the way of this treatment – but together they can make a big difference to treatment.
  • Empowering patients to solve their own problems as much as possible rather than fixing things for them. This typically means using coaching, behavioral therapy, and motivational therapy rather than telling the patient what to do. This creates a sense of agency and restores personal senses of control and capability, helping the patient to overcome their trauma.
trauma-informed approach to treatment being  applied to a male client

When is Trauma-Informed Care Useful?

Trauma-informed care is useful in almost any area of care. This includes hospital, hospice, shelters, clinics, rehabilitation clinics, and even emergency rooms. People are complicated and end up with disorders and health problems because of those complexities. Treating every person as a unique individual with potentially complex causes of their symptoms is a medically valuable approach in any type of care.

Get Your Questions Answered Now

Benefits of Trauma-Informed Care

Trauma-informed care can help patients to improve their health, not just by reducing symptoms, but by treating the underlying causes of the symptoms. Trauma-informed approaches focus on improving quality of life as a whole, which gives every person the ability to recover as best they can.

  • Creating safe environments where individuals feel open to sharing
  • Allowing medical staff to make decisions based on patient experience
  • Increasing engagement with medical care, because patients feel understood and talked to
  • Treating underlying causes rather than just the symptoms
Trauma-informed care can help patients to improve their health
  • Understanding behavior and reactions rather than dealing with symptoms (e.g., the patient won’t do homework assignments, and working with them to understand why and figure out workarounds is much more effective for both parties than attempting to force them to do the assignments).
  • Giving patients opportunities to open up about their past to understand themselves better

Eventually, the benefits of trauma-informed care depend on how well it’s integrated into your program. If staff are trained well, you can expect good results. If staff are not trained well, that may not be the case. In addition, trauma-informed spaces need to make space for one-on-one care, where people can open up regardless of their environment and their peers – because you cannot control the emotional safety of other patients in the same program.

What’s Involved in Trauma-informed Care?

Trauma-informed care can mean different things, but it should always include:

  • Questions about mental health history and trauma, during initial contact and throughout treatment
  • A caring emotional environment where patients have the opportunity to feel cared about and emotionally safe
  • The ability to build relationships with caregivers at their own pace, without rushing into things
  • The creation of spaces where the individual feels safe to share their trauma in private or in a group
  • Staff working to understand that people rarely spontaneously have behavior and that it is almost always based on something – and understanding that something is often trauma
  • Staff working to provide a nonjudgmental environment in which patients can express things they feel shame about without being made to feel shame
  • Being given choices and affirmation with the intent to build ongoing safety
  • Help with planning next steps including treatment, safety plans, and goals
a female and male clients getting help from trauma informed care rehab staff

The context of this can vary quite a bit. For example, a trauma-informed approach is quite a bit different between a 90-day rehab stay and a one-time visit to the ER for a broken arm. Yet, the principals remain the same, as the goal is to understand trauma, to avoid causing more trauma, and to understand how the medical professional fits into offering care for that person around that trauma. Of course, trauma-informed care also isn’t always intended to resolve that trauma.

Treating the symptoms or other issues can be more pressing at the time. Yet, it will always consider past trauma to ensure that you get the best-possible treatment for your mental health condition at the time.

Trauma-informed approaches to treatment are increasingly popular and that’s for a good reason. They give patients the opportunity to recover despite trauma, to recognize and treat trauma, and to move on from that trauma. Therefore, it’s almost always a good choice to look for a trauma-informed approach when looking for medical care.

If you or a loved one is seeking help for alcohol or other substance abuse, contact us at Stairway Resource Center today. At Stairway Resource Center we provide a 60 to 90-day outpatient program that takes place in an engaging and supportive community setting. We offer dual diagnosis treatment and daily group and individual therapy for our clients, in addition to fun community-based events and activities.

Ready to Get Started on Your Journey to Long-Term Recovery?

Learn More About Our Admissions Process or Call Now to Speak With a Treatment Expert

Our Accreditations

Medical Disclaimer: Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken in place of medical advice. Before making any decisions regarding your health, please consult your doctor. The staff at Stairway Resource Center develops a custom treatment plan for each of our patients. Specific medical advice will be provided to our patients by our professional providers while in our care.