What it Means to be Trauma-Informed

What it Means to be Trauma-Informed

Fortunately, the mental health educational landscape has evolved to include trauma-informed awareness and best practices over recent decades.

Healthcare professionals, leaders, mental health practitioners, and those working in various other professions aspire to be more trauma-informed in their work, which is profoundly reassuring.

Understanding and cultivating trauma-informed principles and values helps healthcare professionals (and those working in other industries) to better serve the needs of those under their care.

What it means to be trauma-informed

Broadly, the term ”trauma-informed” means becoming aware of trauma’s many personal and societal consequences, anticipating how trauma survivors may respond to our words and actions, and doing our part to create a world that does not cause further harm. (What Does it Mean to Be Trauma-informed? Psychology Today, Katherine King, Psy.D. November 26, 2021.)

Cultivating trauma-informed practices across all life outcomes allows us to create a world fostering growth, transformation, healing, and resilience.

An existence where no individual feels isolated, excluded, punished, or judged for who they are, where they come from, and what they have been through.

Trauma-informed professionals must be sensitive to an individuals’ needs, culture, history, and environment in all contexts, including their personal and professional lives.

 “We don’t necessarily need to question people about their (traumatic) experiences, explains one Harvard Medical report; rather, we should just assume that they may have this history and act accordingly.”  (Trauma-informed care: What it is, and why it’s important, Harvard Health Publishing, Monique Tello, MD, MPH, October 16, 2018.)

As well as the above, the report states the importance of understanding trauma’s prevalence in various cultures and communities and understanding the possibility that every patient may have experienced trauma at some stage.

The six guiding principles of trauma-informed care

Although it demonstrates hope and promise for the future in all cultural and professional landscapes, the intention to be trauma-informed alone is not enough. 

Professionals across all disciplines must be educated in the core principles and guidelines of trauma-informed care to help them create environments that are sensitive to the needs and experiences of trauma survivors.

There are six guiding principles of trauma-informed care that professionals must adhere to, which include:

1. Safety 

The first principle of trauma-informed care is safety, which involves physical and emotional safety for clients and staff. 

The goal is to create an environment where people feel supported and secure. 

Safety can mean different things to different people and what makes one person feel safe may not necessarily be the same for another.

For instance, individuals from specific cultures or those who grew up in chaotic or unstable environments may have different responses and perceptions to the care they receive.

The safety principle of trauma-informed care is built on the foundation that trauma survivors lack a fundamental sense of security that others without similar histories may take for granted.

For example, those who experienced physical abuse in childhood may be especially attuned to their therapist’s body language or change in position. This is true for everyone working with the client, including support workers, flex module providers and peer counselors. 

They may constantly scan the room, be incredibly watchful of changes in expression, tone, and movement, and always be on guard for signs of safety or danger.

A sign that safety has been established between the provider and client (or any other association) is when an individual stops scanning the room or no longer feels the need to defend themselves or flee from an environment or situation.

2. Trustworthiness and transparency

Trustworthiness and transparency in trauma-informed care means cultivating clear, transparent, and consistent practices and communicating them openly to clients so that they understand what to expect from a particular service or treatment.

It is an approach to service delivery or leadership that encourages individuals to be more willing and comfortable to engage with you and your organization.

Sticking to your word and being reliable can be instrumental when cultivating trust.

For example, letting a client know you will perform a specific action with a consistent, detailed follow-up helps cultivate trustworthiness, particularly when demonstrated consistently over time.

On the other hand, transparency allows people under your care to know where they stand in the relational dynamic whether you are a therapist, wellness module provider, support worker, or in another position of authority.

Being trustworthy and transparent means communicating your intentions, thoughts, and feedback openly and compassionately with a clear, detailed follow-up plan that works for both parties.

3. Peer support

Peer support involves utilizing the lived experiences of trauma survivors to promote healing and recovery.

For example, encouraging support among peers to help foster safety, trust, and compassion allows individuals to feel seen, heard, and supported in the therapeutic process and beyond.

4. Collaboration and mutuality

The fourth principle of trauma-informed care involves collaboration and mutuality.

Here, the focus is on strengthening partnerships between professionals and clients, regardless of the context or service delivered.

Valuing and respecting each individual’s contributions and ensuring that authoritative differences are fair and level helps to create a more balanced, unbiased dynamic between the service provider and client.

5. Empowerment, voice, and choice

The fifth principle of trauma-informed care builds on the above concept by underscoring the importance of actively motivating individuals to harness their power and voice. 

Those who have experienced disempowerment or victimization may be justifiably apprehensive and hesitant to come forward or comply with specific treatments or ideas. 

Therefore, proactive (compassionate) measures are often necessary to encourage these individuals to cultivate self-advocacy and assertiveness. 

Moreover, embodying other foundational principles like Safety or Trustworthiness increases the likelihood that people will feel empowered and safe to move forward in treatment and other areas of their lives.

6. Cultural, historical and gender issues

The final principle of trauma-informed care, albeit a profoundly crucial one, is recognizing and addressing the cultural, historical and gender-related variables that may impact a person’s experiences and trauma responses.

Service or treatment providers must promote inclusivity, fairness, and equity within all care practices.

For instance, focusing on culture allows treatment providers to observe an individual’s strengths, including their core values, relationships, and resources.

Moreover, understanding the historical environment or setting where a person may have felt marginalized or experienced discrimination can help service providers anticipate how clients may perceive their decisions, policies, or actions.


Why is it so important for professionals to be trauma-informed?

Whether you work in the healthcare profession, mental health field, corporate world, or any other setting, being trauma-informed is crucial as it cultivates supportive environments that promote resilience and healing for those who have experienced trauma.

A trauma-informed approach enhances understanding, compassion, and empathy, thus reducing retraumatization and helping to optimize and improve outcomes in many different settings, including:

  • Social services
  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • The Workplace

When service providers and organizations cultivate trauma-informed practices, they can better serve the needs and preferences of those in their care and help foster a culture of trust, empowerment, and safety.

The implications of a non-trauma-informed approach in healthcare (or any other setting)

When healthcare professionals, service providers, and those in leadership positions, for whatever reason, fail to implement trauma-informed practices into their work, the results can be significantly harmful.

For instance, a non-trauma-informed approach in a mental health setting can lead to:

  • Retraumatization: a lack of awareness, understanding, or sensitivity may unintentionally trigger a client’s traumatic responses, which may worsen or exacerbate their current issues, leading to further distress or retraumatization.
  • Lack of trust: When clients don’t feel safe, understood, or secure in their environment, it can lead to a breakdown of trust and hinder their willingness to comply with treatment or seek help.
  • Missed opportunities for recovery and healing: in instances where treatment providers do not cultivate trauma-informed practices, they may overlook a client’s trauma symptoms or fail to address the root causes of their emotional difficulties, preventing clients from accessing the help and support they need for long-term recovery.

Due to the potential implications of a non-trauma-informed approach, it is essential for individuals seeking help and support for mental health issues to understand what to look for when looking for a therapist or treatment center.

A trauma-informed professional demonstrates empathy and compassion and will be sensitive to the needs of trauma survivors; they will also cultivate:

  • Respect
  • Safety
  • Knowledge, including a profound understanding of trauma and its many effects
  • Evidence-based practices for trauma healing and recovery.
  • Self-awareness, which includes recognizing their own limitations and internal biases and how their responses and actions can impact their clients
  • Continuous education, development, and learning—Treatment providers must be committed to an ongoing process of education, awareness, and growth in trauma-informed practices.

Trauma-informed treatment at The Lighthouse Bali 

The Lighthouse Bali proudly offers the only specialized residential intensive trauma programs in Southeast Asia. 

Our distinct treatment programs help clients overcome obstacles stemming from past traumatic experiences, equipping them with the tools needed to move toward a life of peace, transformation, and happiness.

These intensive programs are tailored for individuals who have endured single or multiple traumatic events. 

Our expert team collaborates with each client to identify and address their symptoms, aiming to prevent the long-term or chronic effects commonly linked with trauma.

Moreover, our program is crafted to assist clients in challenging problematic thought patterns while making sense of their traumatic experiences.

Our integrated treatment programs blend various modalities and approaches to ensure you get the most out of your recovery, develop healthy coping skills, and thus avoid relapse.

To learn more about our trauma treatment programs and the experts facilitating these life-changing therapies, contact our friendly team in Bali today for further advice, support, and information. 

We are here and ready to help.

Additional resources

  1. Trauma-informed care: What it is, and why it’s important, Harvard Health Publishing, Monique Tello, MD, MPH, October 16, 2018
  2. What Does it Mean to Be Trauma-informed? Psychology Today, Katherine King, Psy.D. November 26, 2021

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