What is Trauma-Informed Care?


In multiple places on our website we say that we provide trauma-informed care, so here we want to unpack what that means.

Trauma-informed care (TIC) is an approach to engaging people with histories of trauma that recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and the role that trauma has played in their lives.1

Here is a very brief history of TIC. In the last 30+ years there has been an increasing awareness that people with trauma histories were often re-traumatized or traumatized anew during their visits to health care providers. This started a movement (that still continues today) within the health care field whereby health professionals, as well as office staff and policies, are more aware of what trauma is and how to improve practices so as to not make things worse. TIC has also started to gain more traction in educational settings.2


What do we mean by trauma?

There are two basic types of trauma and TIC considers both: acute trauma and developmental trauma. 

Acute trauma is a single unexpected or overwhelming event of abuse, accident, death, loss, or natural disaster that is a subjective, internal experience.3

Developmental trauma is when there has been an ongoing or sustained exposure to abuse, abandonment or neglect, often from early childhood, which interferes in the development of emotional regulation.3


The three “E’s” of trauma

There are three elements that are necessary in becoming trauma-informed: event(s), experience, and effects.1,4

Events: Knowing different circumstances and nuances surrounding different types of trauma (understanding how physical trauma might manifest versus sexual or emotional trauma etc.)

Experience: Knowing how people perceive and apply meaning to the traumatic event impacts and changes how traumatic the event actually was and continues to be.

Effects: Knowing how the long-term effects of trauma can impact the mind, body and behaviour of someone, whether they consciously experienced it as traumatic or not.


The four “R’s” of trauma-informed care

Places and organizations that are trauma-informed are equipped to do these four things well:1,4

Realize – that not everyone has trauma, but that it is extremely widespread

Recognize – the signs and symptoms of trauma

Respond – by changing practices to create safety, transparency, compassion and choice and control for clients

Resist-Retraumatization – which is the ultimate goal of TIC

This is what we mean by providing trauma-informed care. We use our knowledge of trauma to make sure that every client’s experience from the first time they contact us, until the moment we finish treatment together is as safe and empowering for our clients as possible.

Regardless of if trauma is disclosed to us, we will approach sessions from a trauma-informed perspective because we believe it creates the healthiest environment, and ultimately, the most healing one.


References and Recommended Reading:
  1. The National Center for Trauma Informed Care. (2014). Substance abuse and mental health services administration’s concept of trauma and guidance for a trauma-informed approach. https://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA14-4884/SMA14-4884.pdf
  2. Barbara Oehlberg. (2008). Why Schools Need to be Trauma Informed.
  3. BC Ministry of Health TIP Project Team. (2013). Trauma-informed practice guide.
  4. Klinic Community Health Centre (2008). The trauma-informed toolkit.