Responding to Trauma

A person, program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed RESPONDS by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices.

6 Principles of Trauma-Informed Approaches:

The 6 Principles of Trauma-Informed Approaches are important for interactions with individuals, within organizations, in communities, within systems change work and to influence policy change.

SAMHSA’s Trauma-Informed Guiding Principles provide a framework for understanding how to respond to trauma in healthy ways. The 6 guiding principles include safety, trustworthiness and transparency, collaboration and mutuality, empowerment, support and history & culture. Each of these principles are necessary in order to create healing and growth when responding to an individual’s experience with trauma.

By using these guidelines as a foundation for helping individuals cope with the effects of trauma, we can create an environment where recovery is possible. The guiding principles are designed to encourage humility, respectful engagement, shared responsibility, shared decision-making, and strengths-based approaches. It is a framework to ensure that individuals receive the necessary support for recovery.

These same principles can be applied and used as a guide to create trauma-informed organizations and communities.

The six principles of Trauma-Informed Approaches (above) should be applied when working with individuals who have experienced trauma. They are designed to protect those who do not have a trauma history while ensuring that those who do receive trauma-informed care.

One building block of recovery is to teach self-regulation skills to individuals with trauma. This means noticing how the body reacts to triggers, and using simple mindfulness skills — such as taking a deep breath, walking, taking a sip of cold water — to bring immediate relief. Such “help now” techniques may help to disrupt the brain signals of trauma and give the person a chance to function at a higher level.

In the mental health services field, there are many evidence-based treatments (for both children and adults) to treat those who have experienced trauma. In North Carolina, several trauma-informed and evidence-based treatment models are offered, such as TFCBT(Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), CPP (Child Parent Psychotherapy), PCIT (Parent Child Interactive Therapy) and ABC (Attachment Bio-Behavioral Catchup). This is only a partial list of treatments available, and one should work with their therapist to find a program that best suits their (or their child’s) needs. A roster of those who provide these services for NC children can be found here:(CCFH roster link Provider Roster | NC Child Treatment Program).

The guidelines of the 6 Principles of a Trauma-Informed Approach can be applied to organizations, too.

Leadership of the organization must first commit to becoming trauma-informed. This includes being willing to discuss deficiencies or issues that are raised by staff and clients, and set up regular and anonymous ways to receive feedback and input from all levels of the staff and clients.

Organizations should also adopt a thoughtful, compassionate response to helping employees recover from trauma, creating an environment where employees feel supported and free to talk openly about their experiences. This may involve providing mental health services, such as counseling or therapy, and other forms of support, like flexible work schedules or access to employee assistance programs. It is important to recognize that trauma can manifest itself in different ways, so offering a variety of supports may be necessary.

Organizations should also create a culture of understanding, acceptance, and inclusion, and provide education and training on the signs and symptoms of trauma so that employees are better equipped to identify and address it before trauma becomes a larger issue. By creating an open dialogue and providing resources for recovery, employers can help their employees heal and thrive in the workplace.

Additionally, having clear policies and procedures for responding to traumatic events can help ensure a consistent and appropriate response. Finally, providing training on how to recognize and address workplace stressors can help reduce the risk of trauma in the workplace.

It is possible to create meaningful change for individuals and communities by addressing trauma through systems change. Examples of systems are the education system, the welfare system, the economic system, the criminal justice system, the housing system, and the transportation system. System changes require a shift, from simply reacting to what happens to proactively seeking out ways of doing things better. It also requires recognizing that the systems designed to help individuals could actually be doing harm. Systems change requires us to look at the causes of trauma, rather than just the symptoms, and question the way we do our work.

Some current work in systems change in NC includes inviting community voices into conversations around change and instituting family-friendly workplace policies to reduce stress on families, which in turn can prevent child abuse and neglect. Other efforts include addressing the way a family accesses mental health services, decreasing the teacher to student ratio so teachers can develop caring relationships with students, changing school suspension and expulsion policies, and addressing the lack of workforce housing.

Organizations and communities play an important role in advocating for policy change. Policy has the power to address the root causes of trauma, create lasting improvement, and ensure access to services and resources that support individuals who have experienced trauma.

Advocacy is the process of educating decision-makers, elected officials, and administrators on the issues to bring about changes that benefit vulnerable populations. Advocacy involves building relationships with key partners, developing research-based strategies, mobilizing supporters around a shared goal, and ensuring accountability. With effective advocacy efforts, organizations and communities can make progress toward reducing trauma by creating policies that provide greater safety nets, supports, and protections.

There are many effective policies that can prevent ACEs and trauma. These policies can be legislative (municipal, county, state, Federal) or organizational (businesses, schools, medical and behavioral health practices, etc.). To be effective, a policy needs to be based on sound, scientific evidence.

Effective implementation of a policy includes gaining support for the policy from key players, training the individuals who will carry the new policy out, and following up to ensure that the new policy is implemented consistently and as intended. Policies should be evaluated periodically to ensure they are still serving their stated purpose, are achieving their intended outcomes, and do not have unintended harmful consequences.


Lifeline Chat and Text is a service of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline), connecting individuals with crisis counselors for emotional support and other services via web chat or texting 988.

All chat and text centers in the Lifeline network are accredited by either the American Association of Suicidology or the International Council for Helplines. Lifeline Chat and Text is available 24/7 across the U.S. and certain territories in English and Spanish