What Is Trauma Informed Therapy?

Discover how trauma informed therapy can help you heal from past traumatic experiences in this comprehensive article.

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What Is Trauma Informed Therapy?

Trauma informed therapy is a relatively new term, but the concept has been around for a long time. The idea behind trauma-informed therapy is that all clients have experienced some type of trauma, even if they don’t realize it.

Traumatic experiences can affect people in many different ways and often cause them to behave in ways that are not helpful or healthy. To provide the best possible care for our clients, we need to be aware of trauma’s effects on their lives. Trauma informed therapy takes a whole person approach to healing. This approach helps individuals to be more open and expressive during their therapy sessions.

Trauma Informed Therapy

Understanding Trauma

Trauma informed therapy is based on the understanding that many people have experienced trauma in their lives. Trauma can be defined as any event experienced as threatening or overwhelming, resulting in feelings of powerlessness, helplessness, or fear. In the United States, twelve million adults have PTSD any given year, and 6% of adults will experience PTSD at least once in their lives.1

Intentions of Trauma Informed Therapy

Trauma informed therapy focuses on helping people heal from the effects of trauma and develop healthy coping skills. The therapist works to create a safe and supportive environment in which the client can express their feelings and experiences.

The therapist also helps the client understand trauma’s impact on their lives and develop positive coping strategies. Trauma informed therapy can effectively treat many mental health conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.

Causes of Trauma

There are many different causes of trauma, including:

  • Rape
  • Domestic violence
  • Natural disasters
  • Severe illness or injury
  • The death of a loved one
  • Witnessing an act of violence

Childhood trauma is a common occurrence, affecting more than one in seven children. Traumatic experiences during childhood can carry on into adulthood, increasing the risk of developing mental health disorders, learning problems, and delinquent behaviors.2

Symptoms of Trauma

Trauma can cause various physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. Some common symptoms of trauma include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Avoidance of people or
  • places associated with the trauma
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Substance abuse

These are only a handful of the many symptoms that people may experience after a traumatic event. It’s important to remember that everyone responds to trauma differently, and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel.

Principles of the Trauma-Informed Approach

There are six main principles of the trauma informed therapy. These will be detailed below.

Physical and Emotional Safety

Physical safety is how medical professionals should set up the environment to foster safety and trust, and emotional safety is how they should conduct interactions.


Collaboration principles are about how the therapist and client work together as a team to create goals and treatment plans.

Peer Support

Peer support principles involve how other people who have experienced trauma can support and understand those currently going through trauma-informed therapy.


Transparency principles involve the therapist being open and honest with the client about what to expect from therapy and how treatment will be conducted.

Cultural, Historical, and Gender Awareness

Cultural, historical, and gender principles involve the therapist being aware of the client’s cultural background and how it may impact their experiences and beliefs about trauma.

Humility and Responsiveness

Humility and responsiveness principles involve the therapist being open to feedback from the client and willing to adjust treatment based on the client’s needs.

Benefits of Trauma-Focused Therapy

Trauma informed therapy has many potential positive impacts. The following includes the benefits of trauma-focused therapy:

Learn About Trauma

One of the more significant benefits of trauma-focused therapy is that it can help people learn about trauma. Through treatment, people can better understand trauma and how it can impact their lives.

Re-Establish Safety

Another benefit of trauma-focused therapy is that it can help people re-establish a sense of safety. Many people feel unsafe and on edge after experiencing a traumatic event. Therapy can help people to feel safe again by addressing their fears and helping them to develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Identify Triggers

Trauma-focused therapy can help people identify their triggers. A trigger is anything that causes a person to feel upset or distressed. By identifying their triggers, people can learn how to avoid them and cope with them healthily.

Develop Healthy Coping Skills

One of the essential benefits of trauma-focused therapy is that it can help people develop healthy coping skills. Trauma can often lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse. Therapy addresses these harmful coping mechanisms and helps people create more beneficial ways of dealing with emotions.

One study found that 65.9% of patients no longer met the criteria for PTSD after receiving trauma-informed therapy, and the positive effects of this therapy were shown to be well-maintained at a six-month follow-up.3

Decrease in Traumatic Stress Symptoms

Through trauma-focused therapy, people often see a decrease in their traumatic stress symptoms. This can include decreased flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, depression, and irritability. Research shows that symptoms of PTSD in people who attend therapy typically last thirty-six months, while symptoms in those who do not attend therapy last as long as sixty-four months.4

Practice Trauma Processing or Integration

In some cases, people may not be ready to process their trauma. That’s okay. Trauma-focused therapy can help individuals practice trauma processing or integration, allowing them to gradually start talking about their trauma and working through it at their own pace.

Key Ingredients of Trauma-Informed Organizational Practices

The following are key ingredients that are necessary for organizational practices to be trauma-informed:

Leading and Communicating About the Transformation Process

It is essential for there to be leadership and communication about the transformation process within the organization. This will help ensure everyone is on board with the changes and knows what to expect.

Engaging Patients in Organizational Planning and Implementation

A fundamental ingredient is to engage patients in organizational planning and implementation, which will help ensure that the changes meet the needs of those affected.

Training Clinical and Non-Clinical Staff Members

All staff members, both clinical and non-clinical, need to be trained on the new organizational practices, ensuring everyone is aware of the changes and knows how to implement them.

Creating a Safe Environment

Creating a safe environment is one of the most critical aspects of organizational practices. This includes physical safety, emotional safety, and psychological safety.

Preventing Secondary Traumatic Stress in Staff Members

Organizational practices, such as providing support and training, must be implemented to prevent secondary traumatic stress in staff members.

Trauma Informed Therapy

How to Know if a Therapist Is Trauma-Informed

When looking for a therapist, it is essential to find one who is trauma-informed. There are a few things you can look for to know if the therapist practices trauma informed therapy; these will be detailed below.

Ask About Their Training

First, you can ask the therapist about their training. Many therapists will have specific training in trauma-focused therapy. You can also ask the therapist about their experience working with people who have experienced trauma.

Ask About Their Approach

Another way to know if a therapist is trauma-informed is to ask about their approach to therapy. Many trauma-informed therapists will use an integrative approach to therapy, meaning they will use various techniques to help their clients on a more individual level.

Ask About Their Policies

Finally, you can ask the therapist about their policies. Many trauma-informed therapists will have procedures, such as confidentiality and informed consent, to ensure their safety and the safety of others.

Bottom Line

Trauma informed therapy can be very beneficial for people who have experienced trauma. It can decrease trauma symptoms, help people develop healthy coping skills, and provide the opportunity to practice trauma processing or integration.

Contact Soledad House today to schedule an appointment with a trauma-informed therapist and begin your healing journey.