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Resilient Wisconsin: Trauma-Informed Practices

What are trauma-informed practices?

Trauma-informed practices are ways to understand and show care to people who live with, or are affected by, toxic stress and trauma. First, comes realizing the role that trauma has played in their health, behaviors, and relationships. Second, is by providing services and support in ways that uplift and do not blame the person in need.

Trauma-informed practices are rooted in being able to understand or share the feelings of others This is known as empathy. They are a model to reduce the stigma that often surrounds mental and behavioral health disorders like depression, 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. Instead of asking “what is wrong with you”, a trauma-informed approach would ask “what has happened to you? This allows for a strength-based point of view that also highlights how common it is for trauma to be present in certain behaviors and symptoms. Caring for someone in this way can show them as a whole person.

Guiding principles for trauma-informed practices

Take a look at the six principles for a trauma-informed approach.


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Create environments where people feel physically and emotionally safe.

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Collaboration and shared relationship

Strive for dignity and equality in relationships by sharing power and decision-making so that everyone has a role to play.

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Trustworthiness and transparency

Build and maintain trust by being clear in actions and choices.

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Empowerment and choice

Recognize, validate, and build on the strengths that people have to offer, and work to facilitate recovery rather than control it.

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Peer support

Encourage trust and collaboration by sharing stories and lived experiences that promote recovery and healing. 

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Cultural, historical, and gender issues

Strive to recognize historical trauma and the healing power of cultural connections that include racial, ethnic, and cultural needs being met.


Implementing trauma-informed practices

The four “R’s” provide steps 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 substance use, as well as mental and physical health problems.

Responding by putting this knowledge into practice
Prioritizing people’s dignity, voice, and self-empowerment creates safe environments for people.

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


Last revised December 11, 2023