Trauma from experiences like abuse, disasters, or significant loss impacts millions of people. Its effects on mental and physical health can be severe and long-lasting. Fortunately, trauma-informed care principles guide many healthcare providers to support recovery and healing better.
What is Trauma, and How Does it Impact People?
When we experience frightening or overwhelming events that shut down our coping ability, the outcome may be residual trauma. It can stem from one-time incidents or ongoing situations, and the effects often persist long after the event ends.
Common symptoms include flashbacks, anxiety, numbness, unexplained pains, sleep issues, anger, and avoidance. Trauma is linked to higher rates of depression, addiction, chronic illness, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Without proper support, trauma's effects can worsen over time. That's why healthcare providers are adopting trauma-informed principles - to facilitate healing, build resilience, and break cycles of re-traumatization.
Core Principles of Trauma-Informed Care
Trauma-informed care aims to provide helpful, non-judgmental support focused on the patient's needs and goals. Its principles include:
Safety: Providers ensure all aspects of care avoid re-traumatization and promote physical/emotional safety.
Trustworthiness: Relationships are based on clear communication, consistency, and reliability.
Choice: Patients choose their path forward while providers offer options.
Collaboration: Patients are partners in care decisions rather than passive recipients.
Empowerment: Patients rebuild a sense of control over their lives and health.
Applying These Principles to Healthcare Settings
Here are some ways you, as a provider, can implement trauma-informed principles:
- Train your staff on trauma, its effects, and sensitive care approaches.
- Evaluate your facilities and procedures and adjust to enhance feelings of safety.
- Actively work to discern the patient's preferences, explain things step-by-step, and offer choices.
- Work collaboratively on treatment plans and keep the patient's goals in mind.
- Facilitate peer support groups to establish trust and empowerment.
- Use non-judgemental language that is focused on validating and resilience.
- Identify and build on existing client strengths and coping abilities.
The Bottom Line
A trauma-informed approach can make a huge difference in promoting healing and recovery. It provides supportive care that empowers patients, builds on their strengths, respects their choices, and improves outcomes. While trauma leaves lasting impacts, people can overcome distressing experiences with the proper support and regain control of their health and lives.