Many people experience episodes of trauma in their lives, and those experiences often have lasting effects. One area of a person’s life that trauma can impact is the person’s behavioral health. In some cases, a person may develop behavioral health issues due to the ongoing effects of trauma. In other cases, a person may find that his traumatic experiences impact his ability to take part in behavioral health treatment programs.
Trauma-informed care is a behavioral health treatment approach where clinicians consider the possible impact of trauma on each patient. In this post, we discuss the foundations of trauma-informed care and how trauma-informed care can benefit patients during their behavioral health treatment journeys. We also discuss how people can access trauma-informed care programs for themselves or loved ones.
Defining trauma-informed care in the context of behavioral health
At the core of a trauma-informed care approach is the motivation to make each patient feel safe and welcomed during a behavioral health treatment program. In a supportive environment, patients can focus on their treatment programs, and patients can make optimal progress towards recovery.
While clinicians may always work to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for patients, there are specific points for clinicians to consider when implementing trauma-informed care. The key components of a trauma-informed approach include:
- Taking a solution-based approach to patient needs. For example, instead of clinicians asking, “What is wrong with the patient?,” clinicians practicing trauma-informed care can ask, “What happened to the patient?” With this reframing, physicians can work to find a solution to a patient’s behavioral health needs within the context of the patient’s history of trauma. A history of trauma is not something that is wrong with a patient, but it is instead an important part of a patient’s profile that clinicians must consider during treatment.
- Actively avoiding retraumatizing interactions and events. Sometimes, a patient’s interactions during a behavioral health treatment program trigger memories of traumatic experiences. When the patient recalls those experiences, they may become anxious, stressed, or scared and be unable to continue treatment. To help ensure that patients do not have to deal with retraumatization, clinicians and staff must be proactive in avoiding situations and scenarios that might trigger their patients.
- Having all levels of staff implement trauma-informed care practices. When treating patients who have a history of trauma, it is important that clinicians and staff alike do not trigger a patient to recall his traumatic experiences. Accordingly, it is essential that behavioral health hospitals using trauma-informed care train each team member. When the entire organization is involved, both clinical and non-clinical team members can foster a culture-shift towards trauma-informed care best practices.
When clinicians and team members recognize the possible influence of trauma on each patient, behavioral health centers can provide better care to those in need. A patient’s history of trauma does not have to be a roadblock to treatment, and with the right care program, make progress toward his behavioral health goals.
The pervasiveness of trauma and sources of trauma
Experiencing trauma is more common than many people think, and the pervasiveness of trauma makes trauma-informed care an important treatment approach. According to the CDC’s findings on abuse-based trauma:
- Approximately one in five women and one in 71 men experience rape.
- One in four women is a victim of domestic violence.
- One in four children experiences sexual, physical, or emotional maltreatment.
Trauma can also occur in other forms. For example, trauma may come from experiencing cultural and racial prejudice or recognizing the impact of historical trauma. In other cases, trauma may come from difficult life events, such as life-threatening illnesses, tragic accidents, or other situations where one’s life is in danger.
Due to the pervasiveness of trauma, trauma-informed care providers typically do not ask patients about their experiences with trauma. Often, the information that a clinician learns from the patient explaining his experiences with trauma is typically not worth the risk of retraumatization. Also, since experiencing trauma is quite common, a best practice of trauma-informed care is to treat all patients as if they have a history of trauma. By treating everyone as if they have a history of trauma, clinicians can avoid having patients recall traumatic episodes and help create a supportive environment for all patients.
Addressing trauma with the five principles of trauma-informed care
Trauma-informed care practitioners have developed five guiding principles for trauma-informed care. These principles help behavioral health teams implement trauma-informed care across a range of scenarios that may not be in a facility’s set procedure manual. The five guiding principles for trauma-informed care are:
- Safety - Throughout a treatment program, a patient must feel emotionally and physically safe in order to avoid recalling traumatic experiences.
- Choice - Patients must know that they have a choice at each step of the treatment program. Many forms of trauma involve the person not having a choice, and patients must know that treatment is something that they elect.
- Collaboration - Instead of a patient being the recipient of treatment, a patient should be an active participant in his treatment program. To foster collaboration, clinicians can involve patients in treatment planning and review processes.
- Trustworthiness - Episodes of trauma often involve violations of trust. Accordingly, clinicians and patients need to develop a trust-based relationship during a trauma-informed care program to help avoid retraumatization.
- Empowerment - Helping patients build upon their strengths and feel empowered is key to successful treatment. When clinicians help patients recognize and build upon their strengths, patients can feel motivated to engage with and complete behavioral health treatment programs.
When clinicians follow trauma-informed care principles, they can help ensure that their trauma-informed approach covers all aspects of the patient experience. When patients feel safe and develop a productive relationship with their care providers, they are more likely to achieve a lasting recovery from their behavioral health challenges.
Trauma-informed care & Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute
At Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute, trauma-informed care is a key component of our treatment programs. We understand that people who struggle with behavioral health often have to deal with the impact of past trauma during treatment. We train each clinical and non-clinical staff member to adhere to trauma-informed care best practices, and we seek to make each patient feel safe and welcome.
Our behavioral health treatment programs include adult inpatient programs. For adults who do not need around-the-clock care and wish to stay at home during treatment, we offer outpatient behavioral health programs. We also provide age-specific behavioral health programs for adolescents. For patients who suffer from substance abuse, we offer an inpatient chemical dependency program.
By adhering to trauma-informed care best practices, our team can help patients make the most of our behavioral health treatment programs. The first step to getting started at our behavioral health facility is to call our team at (512) 819-1154. Our phone lines are open 24/7, and when you call, a member of our staff can help answer any questions you may have about our treatment programs and trauma-informed care approach.
A staff member can also help schedule you or a loved one for a no cost mental health assessment. Our clinical team can then review the assessment and recommend a customized treatment meant program. To schedule a not cost mental health assessment, contact our team.