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Trauma Informed Care vs. Trauma Specific Treatment


The word ‘trauma’ is used to describe emotionally painful and distressing experiences or situations that overwhelm a person’s ability to cope, rendering him or her powerless. Most of us can generally grasp the meaning of the word, but how many can actually empathize with the damage trauma causes?

Trauma is widespread. At some point in their lives, a number of people survive an incidence (violence, child abuse, domestic violence, military combat, rape, car accident, natural disaster, or a life-threatening illness). Studies show that the impact usually fades within one to three months, but for some the symptoms remain. Hopefully, few of those reading this post will have suffered such a traumatic event up close and personal.

Abused and neglected children are extremely likely to have suffered trauma. Trauma takes a toll on emotions and physical well-being.

Sometimes, the terms trauma-specific services and trauma-informed care are used interchangeably. However, though both practices provide care for people undergoing traumatic stress, they are not the same thing. With these definitions in mind, foster parents, adoptive parents, and other caregivers can be more informed and thus more capable of addressing any issues a child has developed due to trauma.

Definitions (SAMHSA):

Trauma-specific services:

The term “trauma-specific services” refers to evidence-based and promising prevention, intervention, or treatment services that address traumatic stress as well as any co-occurring disorders (including substance use and mental disorders) that developed during or after trauma.

Trauma-informed care:

Trauma-informed care is a strengths-based service delivery approach “that is grounded in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma, that emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both providers and survivors, and that creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment” (Hopper, Bassuk, & Olivet, 2010, p. 82). It also involves vigilance in anticipating and avoiding institutional processes and individual practices that are likely to retraumatize individuals who already have histories of trauma, and it upholds the importance of consumer participation in the development, delivery, and evaluation of services.

Principles of Trauma Informed Care:

The five core principles of trauma informed care include:

  • Safety (establishing and maintaining physical and emotional security)
  • Trust (confirming trustworthiness, stating tasks clearly, and preserving appropriate boundaries)
  • Choice (selecting choices and prioritizing control)
  • Collaboration (maximizing collaboration and sharing of power)
  • Empowerment (offering empowerment and skill-building)

What are Trauma Specific Treatments?

Examples of trauma specific treatments include:

  • Addiction and Trauma Recovery Integration Model – ATRIUM is a 12-session recovery model designed for groups, individuals and their therapists and counselors.
  • Essence of Being Real – The comfort of human connection is a powerful force in healing from trauma. The Essence of Being Real is peer support for those who’ve experienced trauma.
  • Risking Connection – Risking Connection® creates a strong trauma-informed framework for the interventions and processes most often employed in the field.
  • Sanctuary Model – “The Sanctuary Model® represents a theory-based, trauma-informed, evidence-supported, whole culture approach that has a clear and structured methodology for creating or changing an organizational culture”. The Sanctuary Model.
  • Seeking Safety – Specifically developed model assisting trauma survivors in a non-invasive way that doesn’t require them to delve into emotionally distressing trauma accounts.
  • Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model – In 1990, Community Connections clinicians under the guidance of Dr. Maxine Harris developed this model based in clinical experience and the research literature. TREM is one of the major trauma recovery interventions for women.

In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association first included Post Traumatic Syndrome (PSTD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Today, the ability of field professionals to understand, diagnose, and treat the disorder has been vastly enhanced.

CASA volunteers are up close and personal with child trauma. Because CASA volunteers serve on one case at a time, they truly get to know the child and can give each case the sustained, personal attention it deserves. In many cases, the child’s CASA Advocate is the only stable presence in their lives during this very difficult time. If you are looking for a rewarding volunteer experience that truly makes a difference in the life of a child, consider becoming an Advocate.

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