Trauma Informed Care (TIC) is an approach that embraces an understanding of trauma at every step of service delivery. This model requires a compassionate and understanding attitude, in order to address the intersecting effects that trauma can have on people’s lives. It seeks to create a culture of nonviolence, learning, and collaboration in all aspects of treatment, while also recognizing the physical, psychological and emotional importance of clients’ and providers’ safety.
Trauma Informed Care does not have to be directly focused on delivering trauma-related services or treatments. Rather, it is an approach that is incorporated into the structure of a variety of practices, including housing, primary care, mental health, and addiction services. The aim is to provide services in ways that are appropriate and welcoming for those who may have been affected by trauma.
While the effects of trauma frequently have an impact on services and organizations, trauma often goes undetected. Thus, interfering with their recovery and healing, individuals may be re-traumatized by the services and organizations that they interact with.
Adopting a TIC approach as a service provider, organization or system involves:
- Recognizing the widespread nature of trauma and its effects
- Understanding the potential avenues for recovery and healing
- Being able to identify signs and symptoms of trauma in staff, clients, patients, residents and other members of the system
- A complete integration of trauma-related knowledge and information into policies, settings, practices and procedures
Many people experiencing homelessness have faced traumatic events, such as being exposed to violence, experiencing losses, and dealing with severed relationships. The experience of homelessness itself is traumatic, as it involves a lack of stability, a loss of safety and the disconnection from one’s community at large.
Research has found that a large proportion of mothers (79%) who accessed emergency shelters, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing programs, experienced traumatic events during their childhoods. Most commonly, mothers reported past experiences of interpersonal violence, physical assaults, and sexual abuse. Many also met the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Furthermore, intergenerational trauma affects Indigenous communities, which have been gravely impacted by colonial practices, such as: the destruction of Indigenous institutions, disruption of traditions (including Indigenous systems of governance), linguicide, and the implementation of the reserve system, to name a few. Interwoven in many Indigenous experiences of homelessness are the impacts of individual and community traumas, often leading to high levels of mental, cognitive, behavioural, social and physical challenges.
Trauma, depression and substance abuse tend to occur simultaneously, and also have the potential to impact the ability of mothers to form healthy relationships, work consistently and parent effectively.
The effects of trauma have serious health outcomes for individuals, families and communities, and thus, services must recognize the role they play in creating supportive and welcoming environments. As there are many different types of trauma affecting people of all ages, and across all socioeconomic backgrounds in society, a trauma-informed care approach should be an essential component for all services and organizations.