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Overview of trauma-informed care (TIC)

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. Define trauma-informed care
  2. Understand why trauma-informed care should be used in healthcare practices
  3. Explain the benefits of trauma-informed care for clients, healthcare providers, and health organizations
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What is trauma-informed care?

  • Care adjusted to accommodate needs of individuals who have experienced psychological trauma
  • Based on knowledge about the impact of trauma and the importance of creating safety
  • An approach to everyday decision-making, policy and procedure development, and service delivery
  • Focused on the overall well-being of the person

Trauma-informed care (TIC) is a method of care that accommodates the needs of individuals who have experienced psychological trauma. Based on knowledge about the impact of trauma, TIC helps the patient feel safe and able to receive medical care. 

Trauma-informed care is both a treatment and organizational approach. It focuses on the overall well-being of the patient rather than only treating symptoms. It invites a culture change within the healthcare industry, and a shift in how organizations plan and deliver care. Through a trauma-informed lens, everyone from the receptionist, intake personnel, direct care staff, supervisors, managers, through senior leadership can recognize that a person’s experience of trauma affects their ability to engage with the healthcare system. 

Trauma-informed care happens when organizations create environments that are supportive and person-centred.

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Trauma-informed vs. trauma-specific care

Trauma-informed care

  • Organizational and service-delivery approach
  • Requires organizational culture change

Trauma-specific care

  • Clinical intervention
  • Requires specially trained clinicians
  • Offered in mental health programs and services

It is important to distinguish between trauma-informed and trauma-specific care.

Trauma-informed care is a service delivery approach grounded in the knowledge of trauma and its impacts. It focuses on creating physical and psychological safety for clients. For example, an organization is transparent and collaborative in its communications with a patient.

Trauma-specific care is a clinical intervention that focuses on treatment to address trauma-related symptoms. This usually takes the form of mental health programs and services, and is provided by clinicians with specialized training. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) and cognitive processing therapy are both examples of trauma-specific care.

While trauma-specific care is offered in specialized mental programs and services, trauma-informed care should be provided in all healthcare settings.

The development of TIC as a care approach

  • Trauma-informed care recognizes that trauma results in a wide-range of symptoms, both mental and physical
  • When providing care to a patient who has experienced trauma, the underlying cause may be missed
  • TIC acknowledges that trauma is more common than previously known
  • TIC provides ways to communicate, interact, and deliver care that focus on the whole person, taking trauma history into account

Studies have shown that physical health problems often co-occur with PTSI. These symptoms can include migraines, unexplained pain, reproductive issues, obesity, cardiovascular disease, COPD, cancer, and more. 

This means that survivors of trauma are likely to visit their doctor or local hospital with physical symptoms. Unless there is a change in the way providers offer their services, the underlying cause for these physical symptoms can be missed. 

Trauma-informed care has been developed as a treatment approach in response to these findings. Acknowledging that trauma is more common than previously known, it’s time for a change in the way that healthcare providers communicate, interact, and deliver care. 

TIC is a pathway to delivering more effective healthcare for trauma survivors.

Benefits of TIC for clients

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Compassionate perspective of their symptoms

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Greater sense of safety

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Opportunity to explore the impact of trauma

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Improved screening processes, treatment planning, and placement

TIC offers patients the opportunity to experience a compassionate perspective of their symptoms. It provides a sense of safety for those with trauma history, and helps prevent more serious consequences of traumatic stress.

Implementing TIC can improve screening and assessment processes, communication, treatment planning, and placement while also decreasing the risk for retraumatization.

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Benefits of TIC to care providers

TIC allows providers to better meet the specific needs of clients by:

  • Acknowledging the prevalence of trauma
  • Understanding trauma’s impact
  • Acknowledging potential for retraumatization 
  • Providing an individualized care approach
  • Building their own knowledge and skills about trauma

TIC allows healthcare providers to better meet the specific needs of clients by:

  • Recognizing that individuals may be affected by trauma, whether that trauma is acknowledged or not
  • Understanding that trauma likely affects many clients in their care
  • Acknowledging that organizations and providers can retraumatize clients by providing “one size fits all” standard practices
  • Addressing the client individually rather than applying general treatment approaches
  • Raising providers’ awareness of their own trauma and learning to manage their trauma exposure
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Benefits of TIC for organizations

  • Decisions that better address situational demands
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Risk management
  • Community, client, and staff engagement
  • Developing trauma-informed services may save organizations money as clients are correctly matched to proper treatment from the outset
  • TIC mitigates risk by ensuring optimal therapeutic outcomes and lessening adverse effects on the client
  • TIC empowers clients and staff to feel invested and satisfied in their ongoing treatment plan

Rather than seeing clients or patients as sick, resistant or uncooperative, TIC sees them as being affected by an injury. 

They are strong, resilient, and agents in their own recovery.

Trauma-informed care shifts clinical perspective on how clients are viewed. Rather than seeing clients or patients as sick, resistant, or uncooperative, TIC sees them as being affected by an injury. They are strong, resilient, and agents in their own recovery.


Trauma-informed care involves and benefits everyone in an organization.
Trauma-informed care can help healthcare providers to:
In order to be effective, trauma-informed care should:
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