Trauma-Informed Services

What are trauma-informed services?

Trauma-informed care is a strengths-based service delivery approach “that is grounded in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma, that emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both providers and survivors, and that creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment”

(Hopper, Bassuk, & Olivet, 2010, p. 82).

  • attune to the possibility of trauma in the lives of everyone seeking support
  • apply the core principles of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment (Fallot and Harris, 2001)
  • accommodate the vulnerabilities of trauma survivors including people from diverse backgrounds
  • minimise the risks of re-traumatisation and promote healing
  • emphasise physical and emotional safety for everyone
  • recognise coping strategies as attempts to cope
  • collaborate with clients, and affirm their strengths and resources
  • recognise the importance of respect, dignity and hope
  • focus on the whole context in which a service is provided and not just on what is provided.
  • Respect the `seven commitments’ – the guiding values of the Sanctuary Model developed by Bloom and colleagues – non-violence, emotional intelligence, social learning, open communication, social responsibility, democracy, growth and change which should apply to all trauma-informed contexts regardless of the particular approach of the service

Being a trauma-informed service means leading with asking yourself the following questions when supporting people:

What has happened to you?

rather than:

“What is wrong with you?”

The following questions can also help:

How is power operating in your life?

How are interpersonal, economic, biological and cultural systems impacting the individual?

How did it affect you?

What kinds of threats does this pose? What has the situation triggered and how did the individual respond?

What sense did you make of it?

What meaning does the individual attribute to their situation from their own experiences?

What did you have to do to survive?

What kinds of threat responses or adaptations are being used? What coping mechanisms or protective strategies is the individual using to protect themselves?

Adapted from Power, Threat, Meaning Framework, Johnson and Boyle (2018)

One of the foundational elements of a trauma-informed service is embedding the core trauma-informed principles service wide:


How does your service create safety? Consider the physical, emotional and cultural safety needs for both clients and staff.


Does your service demonstrate trauma sensitivity at all levels of contact? How does your service convey its reliability?


How does your service provide choice to clients where it is available and appropriate? In what ways?


How does your service communicate a sense of ‘doing with’ rather than ‘doing to’?


Is empowering clients an ongoing goal of your service? How is this goal enabled by service systems, programs and processes?

Respect for Diversity

How does your service convey and enact respect for client diversity in all its forms? In what ways?

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