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Trauma-Informed Care

Diane Park - Thursday, May 21, 2015

Children with behavioral health needs often have a history of trauma. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) defines trauma in the following way:

Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.

A few examples include sexual abuse, homelessness, bullying, accidents, and witnessing violence in the home or community.

Children and youth who have experienced trauma likely have intense emotions, and behave in a way that is impulsive, reactive, aggressive, withdrawn, depressed, numb or detached. For many traumatized youth, traditional talk-based therapies do not work. Trauma survivors can be re-traumatized by well-meaning caregivers and community service providers. Those individuals impacted by trauma will benefit from trauma-informed care.

SAMHSA defines programs, organizations, or systems that are trauma-informed. They:

  1. Realize the widespread impact of trauma and understand potential paths for recovery;
  2. Recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system;
  3. Respond by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; and
  4. Seek to actively resist re-traumatization.

Trauma-informed care takes into account knowledge about trauma into all aspects of service delivery. Trauma-specific treatments are evidence-based and best practice treatment models that have been proven to facilitate recovery from trauma. Examples of Trauma-specific treatments or interventions for children and youth include:

  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Child Adult Relationship Enhancement
  • Integrative Treatment of Complex Trauma

among many others, some of which are for specific populations.

If you or your child has experienced trauma, seek out trauma-informed providers who specialize in trauma-specific treatments. Ask questions:

  • “In what ways does your organization provide a trauma-informed approach?” 
  • “What trauma-specific treatments do you provide?” 
  • “How is this treatment best for my child and family?” 

If you don’t receive clear answers, seek out another provider.

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