Developing and implementing a trauma-informed approach

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Developing and implementing a trauma-informed approach

Now that the components of trauma-informed agencies and practices are clearer, it is important to develop an understanding of how to think through the development and implementation of trauma-informed services. Here are a few considerations as you implement a trauma-informed practice.

Physical environment 

Is the physical environment in which you provide services conducive to trauma-informed care? Before services are even delivered, it is important to consider whether the organizational setting itself is trauma-informed (SAMHSA, 2014). 

  • Make sure the space where you provide services promotes a sense of safety, calm, and de-escalation for everyone.
  • Provide space that both employees and those receiving services can use to practice self-care. 
  • Develop mechanisms to address gender-related physical and emotional safety concerns (e.g., gender-specific, but inclusive spaces and activities).

Engagement and involvement

Is your organization and practice engaged with those seeking care? Before services are delivered it is important to consider how transparent and engaging your practices are as these will have effects on trust (SAMHSA, 2014).

  • Be transparent with those seeking care in an effort to build and maintain trust with all involved (e.g., those seeking care, family members, staff). 
  • Make decisions with, rather than for, those seeking care. Mutual decision-making will help reduce power differences between providers, staff, and those using services. A shared approach to decision-making and improved trust will promote healing. 
  • Center those being served by the organization as well as their resilience and ability to heal from trauma as the priority. Those seeking services should be involved in shared decision-making, choice, and determining plans aimed at healing. 
  • Self-advocacy should be fostered throughout treatment. 

Screening and assessment

Now that you have considered the physical and social environment and contexts within which care is provided, it is important to consider the practices utilized in providing care (SAMHSA, 2014).

  • Provide timely trauma-informed screening and assessments.
  • Include the individual’s definition of emotional safety in treatment plans.
  • Address identity-based needs in the context of trauma screening, assessment, and treatment. 
  • Integrate peer support into the model of service delivery. 

Trauma-informed treatment

Clinical practices must be created using systems that develop and foster trauma-informed models of care delivery (Menschner, 2016).

  • Provide trauma-specific treatment or refer individuals to appropriate trauma-specific services.
  • Talk with those seeking services about the range of trauma reactions. Minimize any feelings of fear or shame and increase self-understanding in these discussions.
  • Partner with trauma-informed partners to make sure referrals outside of your setting support trauma-informed care to create a continuum that is supportive. 
  • Include peer support, which involves treatment that does not try to fix people but instead helps them develop self-efficacy, often through the use of a peer who has experience with trauma. This enables those seeking services to develop into the person they want to be.

Things to consider.


Trauma-informed care is not dictated by inflexible rules but instead by guidelines. These guidelines are meant to help organizations, practices, and providers develop the capacity and ability to appropriately deliver care in a trauma-informed approach.


By providing trauma-informed care, the person seeking care will benefit from being a part of the assessment and care, develop trust in the care team and the process, and likely will benefit from improved mental and physical health outcomes.

Question to think about:

What steps will you take towards a trustworthy, supportive, collaborative, and empowering approach to care delivery?