Coping With Mental Health: Trauma-Informed Care

Traumatic experiences can be life-changing, and it is well understood that such experiences can have long-term effects. In addition to mental health challenges, past traumatic experiences can lead to other health issues, such as addiction, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and even cancer. While most doctors are able to easily spot physical illnesses in their patients, many do not consider how trauma might play a role.1

What is trauma-informed care?

Trauma-informed care is a different approach to healthcare. It factors in the possibility that a person may have experienced a previous traumatic event that could be contributing to current health concerns. It is an approach that emphasizes understanding, respecting, and responding to the effects of trauma and applying that to all levels of patient care.2

What are the benefits of trauma-informed care?

Trauma-informed care is an approach that can be used throughout healthcare organizations and systems. This approach can improve many aspects of care. Benefits include:2

  • Addresses any potential retraumatizing experiences
  • Establishes an internal trauma care team
  • Ensures commitment to a trauma-informed culture of care
  • Conducts early, respectful trauma screening and assessment for all patients
  • Involves doctors and patients in the planning of care services

The 5 principles of trauma-informed care

Trauma-informed care follows 5 basic principles to guide healthcare providers in giving trauma-informed care.2,3

  1. Safety – Creating spaces where patients feel physically and emotionally safe
  2. Choice – Patients have control over their care, and their experience is respected
  3. Collaboration – Providers and patients work together and share the decision-making process
  4. Trustworthiness – Providers are honest and clear when explaining treatment options and care concerns
  5. Empowerment – The patient’s strengths are emphasized, rather than their weakness or issues stemming from the traumatic experience

Things to consider

It is important to understand that trauma-informed care is not the same as trauma-specific care. It does not try to heal trauma or even necessarily address the specific trauma directly. Still, delivering trauma-informed care requires the commitment of all members of a healthcare team – from office staff to nurses to doctors – to provide compassionate, effective care for all patients who have experienced past trauma.1

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