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Understanding Trauma-Informed Practice & Care

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In this section we will build on the general context given above to delve deeper into the wide practices of trauma-informed practice & care. At the end of this section readers will have a better understanding of the specifics of trauma-informed practice & care, what trauma is, and how trauma relates to student mental health.

What is Trauma-Informed Practice & Care?

According to the Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care (ITTIC) (2022), trauma-informed practice & care moves towards healing and recovery from the pervasive nature of trauma and steps back from services and practices that can unintentionally re-traumatize individuals. Since trauma is such a common experience, the healing of trauma requires a focus on minimizing retriggering the individuals being served. Moreover, trauma-informed practice & care asks us to focus on what happened to an individual rather than on what the individual is doing. This perspective allows us to improve our responses to a range of student emotional and behavioural concerns (Tebes et al., 2019).

Trauma-informed practices are holistic and require a change in thinking at the staff, program, departmental, and organizational level. Embedding trauma-informed practices & care within an institution requires the entire campus community to shift its focus to understanding what has happened to a student rather than fixating on their behaviors that are perceived as negative. The holistic approach aims to reshape a campus’ culture, practices, and policies and in turn helps, faculty, administrators, and staff begin to engage in the kind of teamwork, collaboration, flexibility, and creativity that lead to a deeper understanding of the impact of trauma on learning (Davidson, 2017).

The key principles of trauma-informed practice & care (which will be referenced throughout this toolkit) are (ITTIC, 2022):

  • SafetySafety – ensuring physical and emotional safety.
  • ChoiceChoice – individual has choice and control.
  • CollaborationCollaboration – making decisions with the individual and power sharing.
  • TrustworthinessTrustworthiness – task clarity, consistency, and interpersonal boundaries.
  • EmpowermentEmpowerment – prioritizing empowerment and skill building.
Guide: PDF Version