What Is Trauma-Informed Care?

Trauma-informed care considers how painful past events affect a person’s mental health in the present. It encourages whole-person lasting recovery.

Trauma-informed care (TIC) treats mental health issues with consideration for painful past experiences. Rather than asking, “What’s wrong with you?” trauma-informed therapists ask, “What happened to you?” It shifts the blame from the person to the harmful event.

Some mental health care programs deal only with the current situation and symptoms. Trauma-informed care gets a complete picture of the past and present. It can heal mental disorders by healing the pain that keeps someone from good mental health.

What Is Trauma?

Many therapists define trauma as they understand it from their clinical history. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines trauma and provides guidance for a trauma-informed approach that refers to the three “Es” of trauma: 

  • event
  • experience
  • effect

Trauma is made up of something that happens to you, how you experience it, and its long-term effect on you.

People who experience trauma feel threatened by a lack of physical or emotional safety. They have triggers that raise their stress levels and remind them of the traumatic event. 

Trauma can affect every aspect of your life. Some people try to block out their traumatic history, but it still can cause fear and affect their thinking. If the issues aren’t resolved or overcome, they can make life more difficult. 

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Front-line combat is often associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but any type of trauma can cause PTSD. Domestic violence and sexual abuse are common causes of long-term trauma that lead to a diagnosis of PTSD. 


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as child abuse or a painful accident, may cause trauma that can last a lifetime if left untreated. Childhood trauma occurs to a developing brain, which makes it harder to heal.

If a close friend or family member has an experience of trauma, you may have secondary traumatic stress, also called vicarious trauma. 

The Prevalence Of Trauma

One in four children in the United States experiences physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One in four women has been a victim of domestic violence.

In Ohio, nearly 70 percent of adults claim to have had an adverse childhood experience (ACE). These traumatic experiences include: 

  • emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
  • parental divorce
  • homelessness
  • mental illness in the home
  • witnessing domestic violence
  • living with someone who struggles with substance use

The reported numbers of people who’ve gone through trauma likely don’t show the whole picture. Not everyone who’s been traumatized wants to admit it or talk about it. 

Mental health issues are often stigmatized and kept quiet. This is why it’s so important to offer trauma-informed care that breaks these barriers.

Principles Of Trauma-Informed Care

A trauma-informed system of care follows a universal formula that addresses issues surrounding trauma. These issues can prevent healing and long-term psychological growth.

Healthcare providers for people with trauma must be cautious to avoid re-traumatization. This can occur if a therapist or staff member doesn’t consider a person’s history of trauma.

The six key principles of a trauma-informed approach are:

1. Safety

The care setting and interpersonal interactions should make you feel safe. The staff should be sensitive to what “safety” means to you. 

2. Trustworthiness & Transparency

Transparency (being upfront about treatment goals and methods) builds trust between you, your therapist, support staff, and family members.

3.Peer Support

Associating with others who have gone through trauma can encourage collaboration, hope, and trust.

4. Collaboration & Mutuality

Staff in an organization that provides trauma-informed care should partner and share decision-making. SAMHSA guidelines state that “everyone has a role to play in a trauma-informed approach.”

5. Empowerment, Voice, & Choice

Staff and clients can heal and promote trauma recovery. Trauma can bring people together. If you want a say in your treatment plan, you can work with your therapist to decide what you need to recover.

6. Cultural, Historical, & Gender Issues

Trauma-informed practices need to avoid cultural stereotypes and biases based on race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. However, clinicians should recognize ethnic and cultural traditions that can encourage healing.

How Trauma-Informed Care Is Implemented

Trauma-informed care must spread throughout the organization. Even people at the front desk associate with patients when they check them in, schedule appointments, and answer questions. They should be trained in how to make people feel safe and welcome.

Trauma-informed care can affect these areas of a mental health treatment organization:

Governance & Leadership

The leaders of the organization support a trauma-informed approach and consider staff input as they implement change.


Written policies ensure trauma-specific care that is ingrained in everyday practices and includes connection with community agencies.

Physical Environment

The physical setting of trauma-informed services must be a safe environment that makes clients feel comfortable. 

Engagement & Involvement

Trauma survivors and their family members have a say in treatment planning as well as in organizational culture and decisions. 

Cross-sector Collaboration

People who’ve been through trauma often need help in other areas of life, such as job training or physical healthcare. Cross-sector collaboration connects them with the help they need outside of therapy.

Screening, Assessment, & Treatment Services

Before treatment begins, you should be screened and assessed. If you’ve suffered from trauma, that needs to be considered in your treatment plan or you should be referred to a facility that offers trauma-informed care.

Training & Workforce Development

Ongoing training is vital to successfully implementing the trauma-informed approach. And if staff members have experienced trauma, they need support as they help others.

Progress Monitoring & Quality Assurance

A trauma-informed care facility must monitor the use of trauma-specific principles to ensure they are implemented appropriately.


How finances are distributed should support trauma-informed care, such as covering the cost of staff training and safe facilities.


The organization should have a way to evaluate client experience and the effectiveness of their trauma-informed methods.

Do You Need Trauma-Informed Care?

If you’ve experienced trauma, you need trauma-informed care. Mental health issues don’t always stem from trauma, but trauma usually leads to poor mental health. Treating the symptoms of trauma without addressing the root cause won’t lead to lasting recovery.

Trauma-Informed Care At ORC

At Ohio Recovery Center (ORC), we provide personalized mental health treatment programs. Our safe and comfortable residential facility encourages healing from trauma with 24-hour support.

Behavioral health services at Ohio Recovery Center include:

  • examining the impact of trauma on your life
  • behavioral therapy that resolves negative thinking
  • teaching methods of self-care to ensure lasting recovery
  • professionally trained service providers 
  • fitness and nutrition programs to encourage whole-person wellness

To learn more about trauma-informed care, speak with a treatment specialist today.

  1. Harvard Health Publishing https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/trauma-informed-care-what-it-is-and-why-its-important-2018101613562
  2. ideastream public media https://www.ideastream.org/health/2023-10-30/a-majority-of-adult-ohioans-report-trauma-in-childhood-it-may-affect-their-health-now-study-shows
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/programs_campaigns/childrens_mental_health/atc-whitepaper-040616.pdf
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/sma14-4884.pdf

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: February 2, 2024

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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