Kristi Heffernan, Senior Clinical Specialist: Using a trauma-informed care approach allows for any individual or organisation who work with people who have experienced trauma to establish an environment within which recovery from trauma becomes possible. There are six principles that can guide your implementation of a trauma-informed care or TIC approach to your work. These principles can be applied at an individual staff level and at an organisational level.
The first principle is to promote trauma awareness. This means incorporating an understanding of trauma into all aspects of your work, whether or not you are directly involved in the person’s recovery. Knowledge about trauma may alter your perspectives on how to understand the trauma-impacted persons, various behaviours and emotions. Within a trauma-informed organisation, actively supporting staff self-care is another essential element of being trauma-informed.
The second principle is to promote safety. Trauma survivors can feel unsafe and some are at ongoing risk of experiencing further trauma. Therefore TIC works towards building physical and emotional safety, not just for those you are interacting with or supporting, but also for yourself. Clear roles and responsibilities and boundaries can help promote psychological safety, as does addressing any concerns about privacy and confidentiality, and being respectful in all interactions.
The next principle is to rebuild control. Control is often taken away in traumatic situations. Therefore, TIC emphasises the importance of giving choice and control to individuals. Trauma-informed organisations create predictable environments and allow individuals to rebuild a sense of efficacy and personal control over their lives.
The next principle is to focus on strengths. Importantly, TIC is strengths based rather than deficit orientated. This means assisting individuals to identify their own strengths and resources and helping them add to, or enhance, their existing coping skills.
The next principle is to promote connection. Social networks play a critical role in promoting resilience and recovery. This principle promotes connections between people who have experienced trauma with their friends, family, and significant others, including important support services.
The final principle is to promote belief in recovery. TIC should promote a belief in recovery for trauma survivors. That people can cope, recover, and move past difficult and traumatic experiences. This belief should be reinforced at an individual and organisational level.
None of these six TIC principles are more important than another. Rather, they need to be considered in an integrated manner, whenever you or your organisation are working with trauma-impacted people.