Resilient Wisconsin: Trauma-Informed Practices

What are trauma-informed practices?

Woman with her hand on the shoulder of another person.It’s not an intervention or set of specific actions. Trauma-informed practices (sometimes referred to as trauma-informed care) are a model for understanding and compassionately serving people who live with, or are affected by, the consequences of toxic stress or trauma. First, by acknowledging the role that trauma has played in their health, behaviors, and relationships. Secondly, by providing services and support in ways that do not blame or re-traumatize a person in need.

Trauma-informed practices are rooted in empathy. They are a model to reduce the stigma that often surrounds mental and behavioral health disorders like depression, harmful substance use, chronic disease, and other effects of trauma. It is important to think about how we are approaching and supporting individuals who have experienced trauma. Rather than the typical medical approach of asking “what is wrong with you,” a trauma-informed approach would instead ask “what has happened to you?” This shift moves us away from the medical model to a more strengths-based perspective that highlights how common it is for trauma to be present in certain behavior and symptoms. It is a more holistic approach to caring for someone who is struggling.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has helped establish the standard of care for practitioners with a set of essential principles and requirements for implementing trauma-informed practices in a wide variety of settings.


Six guiding principles

An icon of a house in a blue circle
Strive to create environments where people feel physically and emotionally safe.

An icon of three people in a blue circleCollaboration and mutuality
Striving for dignity and equality in our relationships by sharing power and decision-making so that everyone has a role to play.



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Trustworthiness and transparency
Striving to build and maintain trust by being transparent in our actions and choices.


An icon of ear in a blue circle Empowerment and choice
Striving to recognize, validate, and build on the strengths that people have to offer, and work to facilitate recovery rather than control it.


An icon of a four hands facing different directions in a blue circlePeer support
Striving to encourage trust and collaboration by sharing stories and lived experiences that promote recovery and healing.


An icon of a handshake above puzzle pieces in a blue circleCultural, historical, and gender Issues
Striving to move past biases, recognize historical trauma and the healing power of cultural connections, and incorporate practices that are responsive to racial, ethnic, and cultural needs.


The four "R's"

The four “R’s” represent four step-by-step assumptions for implementing a trauma-informed approach.

Realizing the prevalence of trauma
In Wisconsin alone, nearly 60% of adults report at least one adverse childhood experience while growing up.

Recognizing how trauma affects individuals
Trauma can overwhelm a person's ability to cope and lead to negative consequences, including harmful substance use, as well as mental and physical health problems.

Responding by putting this knowledge into practice
Trauma-informed practices create safe environments for patients that promote healing and recovery by prioritizing people’s dignity, voice, and self-empowerment.

Resisting re-traumatization
This means recognizing and taking steps to minimize situations that could cause distress or mirror the person's traumatic experiences.


Hope in Action

Hope in Action: An Environmental Scan of Trauma-Informed Efforts to Prevent and Address Substance Harm in Wisconsin reviewed more than 70 community programs working at the intersections of trauma and substance harm. By identifying what’s working well, what to avoid, and opportunities to maximize impacts, this report is a helpful tool for organizations seeking best practices, tools, and techniques for addressing the root causes of harmful substance use.

This 2020 report includes:

  • A message from Governor Tony Evers.
  • An overview of harmful substance use in Wisconsin.
  • Effective principles, promising practices, common barriers, and key considerations for guiding trauma-informed efforts.
  • Program profiles.
  • Additional resources, including toolkits and training opportunities.

Watch: Trauma-Informed Care: Putting Humanity Back Into Human Services

This exclusive training webcast for people working in helper professions provides an overview of trauma, explores trauma in the workplace, provides an overview of trauma-informed care, and explores trauma-informed supervision. Watch the video. Contact Resilient Wisconsin with questions about this training. *This webcast is offered for general education only. There is no certificate or continuing education hours offered for viewing this webcast.*

Use these Resilient Wisconsin resources to guide your work.

Learn more 

Want to learn more about trauma-informed approaches and how to effectively implement these practices in your community or organization? Check out these additional resources.

Get to know the influential elements of mental, physical, and behavioral health that help public health professionals and others understand and promote resilience in our communities and organizations, in our relationships, and within ourselves.

Last Revised: August 12, 2021