What Is the Trauma-Informed Approach to Care?
When it comes to trauma, you might think that it only happens to a small percentage of the population. The reality is trauma is more prevalent than you think, especially among vulnerable groups such as women, children, and ethnic minorities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four children in the United States experiences trauma or adverse childhood experiences. Abuse and violence have been prevalent among other groups, such as women and the elderly. This requires the medical community to adopt a trauma-informed approach to care.
First Steps Towards Trauma-Informed Care
Often people are oblivious to how common trauma is in our society. The first step is to understand that every individual who struggles with mental health issues or substance addiction may have experienced severe trauma. This knowledge needs to be applied to the processes of diagnosis and treatment with a high level of sensitivity. Medical professionals need to know that to someone who has experienced trauma, the hospital or a doctor’s office can trigger fear or anxiety.
Medical professionals also need to know that trauma comes in many different forms. Often, we associate past traumatic experiences with sexual violence or abuse, but trauma can also take the form of fearing hospitalization or simple routine medical exams. Everyone has a history that impacts their encounters with the medical system.
The Presence of Trauma Symptoms
Trauma-informed care is an approach that assumes that an individual is more likely than not to have traumatic experiences in their personal history. It acknowledges the role trauma may play in one’s life.
Symptoms of trauma include flashbacks, heightened fear, and anxiety attacks. When responding to someone with these symptoms, medical professionals should ask the trauma-guided question: “What has happened to this person?” That personal history can inform how to care for the client.
Negligence of trauma in an individual may result in re-traumatization, which places the person in a situation that resembles past trauma, sometimes symbolically but still powerful enough to trigger intense emotions and reactions associated with the original traumatic experience. Both medical staff and the medical system may present sources of re-traumatization. This is why extra sensitivity is a requirement for trauma-informed care.
Understanding How Trauma Affects the Whole Person
When trauma occurs, it may affect all aspects of a person’s living experience, including one’s sense of self, safety, trust towards others, and beliefs about the world. The effects of these wounds may directly hamper an individual’s capacity to connect with others.
Trauma-informed care realizes the lasting and all-encompassing effects of trauma on a person. It rallies all aspects of services and trains staff to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in order to avoid re-traumatization. The goal is to restore a client’s sense of safety, self, and trust towards others.
Principles of Trauma-Informed Care
There are some guiding principles for how service providers not only reduce the risk of re-traumatization but also help clients heal from past trauma.
First of all, it is essential to ensure that an individual’s physical and emotional safety is addressed. Secondly, they need to know that they have control over their decision-making. Thirdly, it is vital to establish trustworthiness by holding consistent boundaries and clarity over expectations. Fourthly, individuals need to be empowered by going through coping skills training. Lastly, medical professionals need to collaborate by sharing power with the individual. The CDC also adds that peer support and cultural, historical, and gender issues need to be incorporated into trauma-informed care.
Applying these principles to trauma-informed care means:
- Creating a physically and emotionally safe environment
- Establishing trust and boundaries
- Supporting a client’s autonomy and choice-making
- Creating collaborative relationships
- Encouraging clients to participate in training that increases their resilience and power in life
Building a Trauma-Informed Support System
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), medical organizations and systems need to create a trauma-informed environment in the following areas:
- Governance and leadership
- Physical environment
- Engagement and involvement
- Cross-sector collaboration
- Screening and assessment
- Treatment services
- Training and workforce development
- Progress monitoring and quality assurance
Another critical aspect of systemic improvement involves dismantling the stigma associated with personal traumatic experiences, such as sexual violence and abuse. Society as a whole has failed to support trauma victims by offering compassion and understanding. Instead, the effects of trauma have been often compounded by victim-blaming, silencing, and stigmatization. The harmful consequences are seen among children and women who suffer from adverse experiences.
The general public needs to understand more about the ramifications of trauma and how social stigma adds to that harm. To trauma victims who later develop substance addiction, a compassionate, trauma-informed approach is needed more than ever. Some people might have used substances as a survival method against past trauma. When considering that perspective, medical providers can also provide practical help to address both the trauma and other health conditions.
If you’ve suffered from traumatic experiences in life which contribute to the later development of substance addiction or mental health issues, it may be best to seek trauma-informed care. Not every treatment facility takes a trauma-informed approach. However, at Capo Canyon Recovery, we have experience treating clients with traumatic experiences, substance addiction, and co-occurring mental health disorders. Our treatment center near Mission Viejo, CA, is staffed with compassionate medical professionals trained to implement trauma-informed care. We care about the holistic well-being of our clients and their long-term recovery. We value personal history and manage each case with sensitivity and intentionality. Most importantly, we do not give up. If you or a loved one needs trauma-informed care, both our inpatient residential care and outpatient, long-term care programs can be helpful resources. With an in-house chef, luxurious beds, and an onsite organic garden, we’re here to help you on your journey to wellness. Call us at (800) 804-8714 today.