Once a person begins looking into mental healthcare and recovery practices, they tend to see the term “trauma-informed care” everywhere. It may seem intuitively simple to understand, but what does this term really mean in a mental health and recovery context?
What is Trauma-Informed Care?
Trauma-informed care refers to practices that adhere to five guiding principles to lower the chance of re-traumatizing patients or clients receiving care. This modern approach to mental healthcare reflects the belief that adverse childhood experiences can have long-lasting emotional, neurological, psychological, social, and biological effects. The past experiences of a patient “informs” the care they receive, typically featuring an empathetic approach by mental healthcare providers.
Many people carry emotional scars from traumatizing experiences, which often occur in childhood trauma, but can happen at any point in life. Unaddressed traumas tend to fester, and may cause emotional, social, and even physical harm to the people carrying them.
Trauma-informed care also reframes the relationship between patients and mental health treatment centers. In the trauma-informed framework, mental health providers do not act as authority figures over patients, but instead act as partners in healing. They work alongside individuals during the recovery process, providing support throughout their journey of healing and growth.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), organizations following a trauma-informed approach to caregiving should incorporate three guidelines in their practices:
- Recognizing and affirming the prevalence of trauma
- Recognizing how trauma affects all individuals involved in the organization, including its workforce
- Building practices based on these recognitions
An organization using this approach trains team members to use the five guiding principles below so that all interactions and treatments are mindful and consciously aware.
Integrative Life Center believes in trauma-informed care practices and loves to see the transformative results they bring to our clients.
The Five Guiding Principles of Trauma-Informed Care
Adhering to these principles helps ensure a patient or client’s emotional and physical safety throughout treatment.
Treatments begin from the understanding that practices must keep a client both emotionally and physically safe. Creating a healthy relationship outside of any trauma bond is important for the patient on their road to recovery.
Providers build relationships with clients to establish the providers’ trustworthiness, so that the client feels safe enough to discuss their issues truthfully and vulnerably. Consistent boundaries and clear expectations of the service experience are good examples that demonstrate the trustworthiness of a treatment center and its staff.
People seeking trauma-informed care for mental health often struggle to feel like they have control over their own decision-making. However, by making active choices in a trauma treatment plan, clients have greater investment in the outcome and their overall healing. In a treatment facility like Integrative Life Center, these options may include deciding one’s length of stay, level of care, and choosing from a range of modalities for meditation and healing.
Care providers and care receivers work together as teammates toward healing and recovery, instead of care providers acting as authority figures delivering commands to be obeyed.
Trauma-informed care focuses on helping people discover their own power, or regain it. This serves to develop healthier coping skills and, ultimately, a firmer foundation that clients can fall back on.
At the core of trauma-informed care is “Primum non nocere,” which translates from Latin as “First, do no harm.”
When trauma recovery practices follow the five principles of trauma-informed care, the client’s well-being always comes first. In this way, they can safely explore their own experiences without suffering further harm or retraumatization.
Avoiding Retraumatization During Treatment
When a person begins to open up and talk about past traumatic experiences with their mental healthcare provider, simply discussing a traumatic event may bring up the emotions and sensations of the original trauma. Re-traumatization occurs when the client consciously or unconsciously re-experiences a traumatic event from their past.
Retraumatization can be caused by stressors (or triggers) that might be similar to the original trauma’s circumstances or environment. A particular smell, a physical space, lighting, imagery, taste, or something that mimics a previously traumatic experience can result in re-traumatization.
When providing trauma-informed care, each practitioner must consider how their demeanor, posture, speaking volume, vocal tone, or aroma may impact a client. An essential component of trauma-informed care is being mindful of how one’s presence and behavior may affect another person based on their past experiences.
Trauma-Informed Care at ILC
Our trauma-informed therapy program focuses on understanding the complex and nuanced effects of trauma, and providing a safe environment for our clients to take the seat of power in their individual narratives.
During cognitive behavioral therapy sessions at Integrative Life Center, our therapists guide clients to identify any beliefs and behaviors related to a traumatic event, while keeping clients in the driver’s seat, so to speak. We also offer dialectical behavior therapy and narrative therapy modalities.
Do you suspect that past traumas cause you pain or drive your behavior today? If so, you are very normal – we believe each person’s traumas affect how they see the world and other people in it. The good news is that you do not have to be bound to your trauma forever. We’ve witnessed thousands of clients face their most painful experiences and take back control of their lives, and we love to see it every time.
Facing your own trauma can begin today! Give us a call and learn about the next steps to freedom from the traumas of your past.