Trauma-Informed Care

Original Editor - User Name Top Contributors - Naomi O'Reilly and Anna Fuhrmann

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being".[1] Traumatic events are common and can affect any person from any cultural, socio-economic, ethnic, religious or educational background and is non-specific to gender or age. A traumatic experience can be a single event, a series of events, and/or a chronic condition (e.g., childhood neglect, domestic violence) and can also include second-hand experiences, meaning that someone might have a trauma which they have not experienced themselves but were indirectly affected.[1] For some people, reactions to a traumatic event are temporary with immediate psychological and/or physical effects, whereas for others trauma can have lasting effects on a person’s life and well-being. Some people can have a much more prolonged reaction to trauma that become chronic or persistent with more severe, prolonged, or enduring mental health consequences (e.g., post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders, substance use and mood disorders) and medical problems (e.g., arthritis, headaches, chronic pain) that can alter individual biology and behaviour over the life course, which can impact both interpersonal and intergenerational relationships.

Due to a high prevalence of unidentified trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACE), Trauma-Informed Care has become recognised as a valuable part of patient care. Especially in settings of conflict or natural disasters, a mindset within the professional health and social services, which is attentive towards past trauma in care-seekers, can prevent re-traumatisation and improve treatment outcomes for individuals who have experienced trauma.

Individuals who have experienced trauma including adverse childhood experiences are more vulnerable to a variety of health conditions and diseases, e.g. mental health disorders, substance abuse, cardiovascular diseases, chronic pain disorders, etc.[2] Often, trauma is not detected or dealt with and subconsciously affects the patients' response to treatment. Mindfulness towards trauma and adverse childhood experiences can help to lessen the long-term effects on physical and mental health in affected individuals by addressing the underlying conditions in a sensitive and respectful matter.

“Trauma-informed services do no harm i.e. they do not re-traumatise or blame survivors for their efforts to manage their traumatic reactions, and they embrace a message of hope and optimism that recovery is possible. In trauma-informed services, trauma survivors are seen as unique individuals who have experienced extremely abnormal situations and have managed as best they could”. [3]

Dr Cathy Kezelman

Principles[edit | edit source]

The trauma-informed care model is the framework that acknowledges the understanding of the impact of trauma, ways to respond to the trauma and it also enhances the physical, psychological and emotional safety for both service providers and patients. It also provides opportunities for the patients to rebuild the self-control and empowerment.[4] There are six key elements of a trauma-informed approach.[3][5][6][7]

Safety[edit | edit source]

The first and most important principle of trauma-informed care is to ensure a feeling of physical, psychological and emotional safety, for both staff and patients. While completing an assessment the rehabilitation professional should create an environment where patients can feel safe physically and psychologically. A therapist should interact and ask questions in such a way that patient feels comfortable to tell their story, describe their subjective feelings and emotion during the assessment process. The therapist should ensure patient that if the patient feels uncomfortable at any point of time they can stop the assessment process at any time. The patient is also assured that confidentiality will be maintained between the therapist and the patient.

Trustworthiness and Transparency[edit | edit source]

An important aspect to develop trustworthiness and transparency includes clarity in communication and decision-making in order to build trust. The decision which is taken and the goal prepared should be transparent so that patient can have trust towards the rehabilitation professional. The assessment should be client-oriented and the findings should be recorded so that there is consistency between the therapy sessions.[8]The type and behaviour of pain described should be recorded exactly as described by the patient. The patient's autonomy should be respected. While measuring pain, validated outcome measures should be used. [9]

Peer Support[edit | edit source]

Bringing together patients and professionals with similar experiences can help to achieve integration of individuals into the service or therapy. Peer means the group of people who have faced the same kind of trauma. During the assessment, if the patient feels comfortable being with the peer group, the therapist can offer the option to the patient.[3] Many patients may have little knowledge regarding their pain experience as some pain might be due to emotional suffering and central sensitisation.[8]Peer support might provide emotional support and it can be provided face to face, in a group, or via the internet as per the patient's choice.[1]

Collaboration and Mutuality[edit | edit source]

It is essential to involve the patient in treatment plans. In general, decisions should be shared between staff of different levels/ professions and the individual. The assessment findings should be discussed with the other health professionals for the betterment of the client. Mutual collaboration between the health professionals and the caregiver gives a positive outcome. The patient may perceive pain differently at different points of time with different people. So, discussing the patient's pain assessment findings among the caregivers and other members of the team will give us accurate assessment findings. Everyone has a role in trauma-informed care. [3][8][1]

Empowerment, Voice and Choice[edit | edit source]

Both, patients and professionals need to be able to make use of their strengths. This principle supports the resilience and self-efficacy within therapy/ the process of healing by giving back control to the individual.One vital aspect is to provide and encourage opportunities to make individual choices for all involved patients and professionals, along all stages of treatment. The therapist can provide emotional and psychological support to the patient so that they can describe the pain in a comfortable manner. The patient should be involved in the shared decision-making process, goal setting, and strategies to cope with the pain. The physiotherapist should help the patient in developing self-advocacy skills.[3][8]

Cultural, Historical and Gender Issues[edit | edit source]

Trauma based on discrimination (e.g. of gender, skin colour, ethnicity, ...) are recognized, bias and stereotypes are addressed, and diversity is respected in every way during treatment by both patients and staff. All the patients should be equally treated with respecting the cultural and historical background of the patient. While doing the examination, the patient's privacy and cultural aspects should be considered for example: taking proper consent and explaining the procedure before undressing the female patient for the examination if needed. If some patients feel comfortable with the physiotherapist of the same gender, the organisation should consider the patient's decision.[3][8][1]

Key Components to Implement Trauma-Informed Care[edit | edit source]

To implement a trauma-informed care, training of clinical and non-clinical staff is necessary.[8] The framework should strongly be founded on the above-mentioned principles. Standard clinical and administrative procedures need to be reviewed under those aspects, and should also be considered from a patient-centred point of view.

An approach to trauma-informed care must be made on both an organisational and a clinical level.[8] By training staff (clinical and non-clinical), opening up opportunities of communication about trauma and coping (for both patients and staff) and providing means to include patients and workers into organisational tasks, a workplace can start incorporating the principles. It is also advised to hire a trauma expert for both consultation and training. Knowing that there is a specialised contact person who can be consulted for trauma-related issues, already helps creating a safe environment for many individuals. To incorporate this, first the structural requirements have to be created. Leadership personnel needs to acknowledge and support the approach as it requires changes within the clinical organisation. The allocation of resources and funding is a first step to establish a trauma-informed clinical setting. The group overseeing the integration of trauma informed care into the clinical setting should also include individuals who have experienced trauma, to ensure a feeling of transparency, trustworthiness and collaboration between the care personnel and the patients.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Trauma-informed care is an intervention and organisational approach that focuses on how trauma may affect an individual’s life and their response to behavioural health services from prevention through treatment. It focuses on the importance of patient-centred care rather than applying general treatment approaches, and provides patients with more opportunities to engage in services that reflect a compassionate perspective of their presenting problems. [1]

Further Resources[edit | edit source]

  1. For more information and practice implementation strategies, visit the following websites;

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. SAMHSA's Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach. HHS Publication No.(SMA) 14-4884. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014. Available from: (last accessed 27 March 2022).
  2. SAMHSA. Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioural Health Services. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). Rockville (MD); 2014. Available from: (last accessed 27 March 2022).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 NSW Health. What is Trauma-Informed Care? Available from: (last accessed 27 March 2022).
  4. Hopper EK, Bassuk EL, Olivet J. Shelter from the storm: Trauma-informed care in homelessness services settings. The open health services and policy journal. 2010;3(2):80-100.
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4884. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,2014.
  6. University at Buffalo Centre for Social Research. What is Trauma-Informed Care? Available from: (last accessed 27 March 2022).
  7. Trauma-Informed Care Implementation Resource Centre. What is Trauma-Informed Care? Available from: (last accessed 27 March 2022).
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 Menschner C, Maul A, Center for Health Care Strategies. Key Ingredients for Successful Trauma-Informed Care Implementation. April 2016. Available from: (last accessed 27 March 2022).
  9. Wideman TH, Edwards RR, Walton DM, Martel MO, Hudon A, Seminowicz DA. The multimodal assessment model of pain: a novel framework for further integrating the subjective pain experience within research and practice. The Clinical journal of pain. 2019 Mar;35(3):212.