What Is Trauma-Informed Care?

A paramedic riding in the back of an ambulance.

What Is Trauma-Informed Care?

Trauma is commonly linked with addiction. Although many people have experienced a trauma that may have led them to seek substances, they often have a difficult time communicating about those traumas. It is common for people to, instead, self-medicate to suppress the emotions associated with their trauma. Trauma-informed care is very important in overcoming the overwhelming symptoms associated with trauma. When using therapies designed to address trauma, people ultimately can heal and achieve a better quality of life.

Being exposed to a traumatic event can cause feelings of fear and distress. What’s more, experiencing persistent episodes of trauma over time can be even more detrimental to a person’s mental health. Depending on the severity of the event, the short-term or long-term mental effects of trauma can ultimately lead to destructive behaviors if left untreated. With professional help, however, an individual can recover from the trauma and develop positive ways to cope with present-moment events.

Mental Effects of Trauma

As stated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the effects of trauma can place a deep burden on individuals, loved ones, and the community as a whole. If an individual has a strong support system and no history of trauma, it may be easier to move past the event. They may indeed have the ability to move on from internal shock and live a balanced life without negative effects. Others without those same resources or history may have problems coping with the devastating occurrence. Everyone responds to a traumatic experience in different ways.

Clinical research has proven that trauma is often associated with not only physical ailments but with behavioral health conditions as well. Trauma can manifest as substance abuse with co-occurring mental health disorders on top of that. Such an individual may face challenges maintaining employment, keeping healthy relationships with others, concentrating in school, and more. It is important for those individuals to seek professional help to help them safely reflect on the event and begin to let go of the symptoms and effects that resulted from it.

Short-term mental health effects of trauma may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Anger

Long-term mental health effects of trauma may include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Self-harm
  • Substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Insomnia
  • Suicidal ideation

What Is Trauma-Informed Care?

Those who offer trauma-informed care focus on what happened to the individual rather than only on the condition that’s presenting itself. These types of healthcare facilities and treatment centers gather an individual’s complete history to develop the most effective plan of care. By studying the individual’s past and present mental and physical state and history, they come to better understand the person’s unique background. By doing this, the health professional can potentially improve the treatment, engagement, and potential outcome for that person.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the six guiding principles of a trauma-informed approach can be used by professionals to greatly increase success. These principles were designed to help first responders gain awareness of the negative impact associated with their jobs.

The six principles include:

  • Safety: Ensuring the individual feels safe physically and emotionally.
  • Transparency and trustworthiness: Building trust with the individual.
  • Peer support: Connecting others to the individual for emotional support.
  • Mutuality and collaboration: Ensuring everyone is on the same page.
  • Empowerment and choice: Helping the individual feel empowered and providing resources as needed.
  • Cultural, gender, and historical issues: Recognizing stereotypes and helping the individual feel self-worth.

Overcoming the Symptoms of Negative Exposure

According to NIH News In Health, learning the appropriate ways to react, respond, and effectively cope with trauma can help improve the odds of recovery. Mental health professionals can teach individuals new coping strategies to put into action rather than leaning toward the use of drugs and alcohol. Taking time to reflect and learn from the situation can help people recover from the negative exposure.

Reaching out to friends and family and participating in support groups can greatly benefit an individual during recovery. Speaking with a mental healthcare provider can help a person manage the challenges associated with PTSD.

If left untreated, an individual may experience a low self-esteem, social isolation, a tendency to engage in self-injury, and even suicide attempts. A licensed therapist can develop an individualized treatment plan to better assist a person in overcoming their symptoms and condition. Self-help websites, links, and apps are also available to help those with trauma develop better coping skills. These options provide supportive information to guide people as they move forward.

The Importance of Trauma-Informed Care

Exposure to traumatic events can negatively impact an individual’s future and interfere with day-to-day tasks, relationships, and one’s ability to stay motivated toward personal goals. Trauma-informed care is essential to improve positive and long-term health outcomes. An individual may have developed negative coping skills, a lack of self-care, and assorted bad habits in response to their trauma. Trauma-informed care can work to reverse the mental and physical effects associated with the trauma that occurred.