Trauma-Informed Care

Trauma-informed care is not a therapy, intervention, or specific action. It is an approach to engaging people with histories of trauma that recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role that trauma has played in their lives. Trauma is extreme stress that overwhelms a person's ability to cope. It can be an event, a series of events, or set of circumstances that harms a person's physical or emotional well-being.

The Four "R"s of Trauma-Informed Care

There are four elements of a trauma-informed approach.

Realizing the prevalence of trauma

Many individuals experience trauma during their lifetime. Nationally, 61 percent men and 51 percent of women will experience at least one trauma in their lifetime.

Although many people exposed to trauma demonstrate few or no lingering symptoms, individuals who experience repeated, chronic, or multiple traumas are more likely to exhibit pronounced symptoms and experience negative consequences, including substance use disorders, mental illness, and physical health problems.

Recognizing how trauma affects individuals

Trauma can significantly affect how an individual functions. Research shows trauma disrupts the central nervous system and overwhelms a person's ability to cope. It often results in feeling vulnerable, helpless, and afraid. It interferes with relationships and fundamental beliefs about oneself, others, and one's place in the world.

Responding by putting this knowledge into practice

Trauma-informed care is a change of perspective. It's not what's wrong with a person. It's what has happened to him to her. In other words, it is a shift in focus from, "What is wrong with you?" to, "What has happened to you?"  This approach lessens the blame on people who have had adverse experiences in their lives and instead acknowledges it may not be their fault they are acting badly. It shows the person that there is an understanding that their past experiences may be affecting their present behavior. This promotes healing.

Resisting retraumatization

Trauma-informed care takes steps to minimize situations that could cause distress or mirror the person's traumatic experiences.

"Be a Trauma-Informed Care Champion" Poster

Show your support of the 10 values of trauma-informed care as identified by the Wisconsin Trauma-Informed Care Advisory Committee. Print and display the "Be a Trauma-Informed Care Champion" Poster. (PDF)

Last Revised: May 31, 2019