Trauma-Informed Care

February 22, 2021

Trauma-informed care is critical to safe and supportive crisis intervention.

Trauma-informed care is guided by a detailed understanding of how trauma can shape an individual's perceptions and behavior. Its potential to impact a person’s mental, physical, social, and emotional well-being means that an appropriate response recognizes the ongoing and interdependent needs for a person's sense of  safety and connection, and for the management of emotions and impulses.

Trauma-informed care mindfully considers the nature and manifestations of trauma:

Trauma can be rooted in a range of experiences and impact a person in a range of ways:

  • It can stem from a single experience, or a series of experiences.
  • It can be an actual or perceived threat to a person’s well-being.
  • It can negatively impact a person’s daily coping mechanisms.
  • It can color or distort a person’s ongoing perspective, including their behavioral responses.

“It is important for crisis workers to be aware that the body remembers somatic and other sensory experiences of trauma.” – Laurie Barkin

Traumatization occurs when an individual’s internal and external resources are inadequate for coping. Types of trauma include:

  • Acute Trauma (Type I)
  • Complex Trauma (Type II)
  • Crossover Trauma (Type III)
  • Vicarious or Secondary Trauma/Compassion Fatigue

“Life experiences form neural connections in the brain, and just like a trail becomes more beaten down the more times it is traveled, repeated trauma can reinforce these pathways’ construction, forming the groundwork for PTSD, depression, or addiction.” – T.D. Loftus

Triggers are the signals that act as possible signs of danger, based on historic traumatic experiences. These can lead to a range of survival responses:

  • Emotional
  • Psychological
  • Behavioral

“If our intention is to be great leaders and effective, skilled interveners, then we have to be sympathetic, compassionate, and NOT take [challenging] behavior personally. When we do this, we’re able to rationally and effectively respond.” – Maria Navone

For detailed explanations of each of these concepts, and guidance on providing trauma-informed care, make sure you download CPI's free Trauma-Informed Care Resource Guide.

CPI training supports a trauma-informed care approach.

As you’ll learn in the CPI guide, trauma-informed care seeks to prevent re-traumatizing an individual in crisis, while empowering them to cope more effectively. CPI recommends these practices to help avoid re-traumatization:

  • Screen for trauma history.
    • CPI offers a comprehensive De-escalation Preferences Form in our free guide; it’s a great tool for gathering the right information to provide trauma-informed care to children or adults.
  • Deepen attunement skills—learn to interpret behavior effectively as communication.
    • CPI’s Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training emphasizes this practice as a means of safer and more caring crisis prevention, particularly when working with individuals who may have a trauma history.
  • Employ person-centered, strengths-based thinking and language.
    • CPI recommends a person-centered approach across a range of disciplines, which allows us to see and support individuals for who they truly are as people, not just how they behave in crisis.   
  • Provide stability and empowerment.
    • CPI’s evidence-based approach to limit setting supports decision-making opportunities for an individual in crisis that can help de-escalate behaviors triggered by trauma.
  • Consider the physiological, psychological, and social risks of physical interventions—choose the least restrictive option as a last resort if somebody is a danger to themselves or others.
    • CPI does teach safe, nonviolent physical de-escalation and disengagement, but our philosophy is emphatic that the safest restraint is the one that never happens. Learn how to reduce the risks of restraint.
  • Prioritize debriefing after a crisis to help foster resilience and develop successful coping skills.
    • CPI’s COPING ModelSM is a tool that can help staff and the populations they serve process, recover, build resilience, and plan for prevention after a crisis event—check out our free on-demand presentation on facilitating a debriefing.

“Is it really deviant behavior, or is it a trauma response?” – Stan Granger

Trauma-Informed Care Resources Guide

This eBook will provide you with an understanding of trauma, its triggers, and how it affects behavior—allowing you to prevent trauma-induced crises in the workplace and beyond.


No matter your role, you can play an important part in facilitating trauma-informed care.

As our cultural understanding of trauma deepens, trauma-informed care is being embraced by human services professionals across a range of disciplines. Trauma-informed care has been found to make a measurable and positive difference even in settings where individuals haven’t experienced trauma—for example, trauma-informed schools are seeing profoundly positive student outcomes because of the model’s emphasis on restorative and prosocial dynamics. In hospitals, a trauma-informed approach helps clinical staff prevent disruptive behavior by considering potential trauma triggers before they engage with a patient, and adjusting their care delivery accordingly.

A trauma-informed approach, then, has the dual benefit of not only providing more person-centered care to a person who needs it, but of keeping the professionals providing that care safer and more resilient.

“I find the building of rapport and being trauma-informed synonymous, and inextricably tied together, resulting in healthier and more positive outcomes for our population. Getting to know a person and their life experiences affords me and others the opportunity to better provide needed care, offer more specific and tailored services, and have more successful interventions should they be needed.” – D.C. Foster

As we continue to learn about the profound relationships between trauma and health, it’s important to embrace a supportive approach that focuses on caring and empowerment. Access to trauma-informed care can improve a child’s potential to thrive as an adult, and empower adults to improve their health and quality of life. Trauma-informed care is a way to connect ourselves, and those we care for, to greater Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM.

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