The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently published a Practical Guide for Implementing Trauma-Informed Approach. This guide updates and expands SAMHSA’s 2014 Concept of Trauma. The goal of this publication is to provide tools and strategies for programs, organizations, or systems to implement a trauma-informed approach (TIA). Traumas is defined as, “the result from an event, series of events or set of circumstances, an individual experiences as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening, which may have lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.” It further states that, “traumatic events can be experienced by an individual, a generation, an entire community or culture.”
Globally an estimated 70 percent of people have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. Furthermore, 31 percent reported experiencing four or more traumatic events. In the United States, 90 percent of adults reported having encountered at least one traumatic event, with women reporting the highest rates. Research has found that men and women tend to have different experiences of trauma, with women being twice as likely as men to develop PTSD. Women commonly report incidents of sexual assault or child sexual abuse, while men are more likely to face accidents, physical assault, combat, disasters, or witness death/injury.
This new report also discusses the need for behavioral health equity. It’s important to note the impact of cultural, racial, and historical trauma. Minority youth are more prone to various forms of trauma, including historical trauma, immigration stressors, natural and man-made disasters, discrimination, and violence. Unfortunately, they often face barriers in accessing medical and mental health care. Black and Latino young men, disproportionately experience violence, poverty, incarceration, limited healthcare access, marginalization, and low social status. In addition, the prevalence of PTSD is highest among Black populations. American Indians and Alaska Natives carry the weight of historical and intergenerational trauma, which increases their vulnerability to present-day traumatic experiences. Moreover, LGBTQI+ individuals are nearly four times more likely to endure violent assault compared to their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts.
Behavioral health providers strive to create a safe and supportive environment for all the people they serve. Understanding the impact of trauma and integrating trauma-informed principles into practice is crucial for effective care. SAMHSA’s comprehensive framework outlines best practices for the adoption of a trauma-informed approach (TIA).
SAMHSA’s TIA is based on four essential assumptions:
- Recognizing the widespread impact of trauma and understanding paths to recovery.
- Identifying signs and reactions of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved.
- Integrating trauma knowledge into policies, procedures, and practices.
- Resisting re-traumatization by creating a safe and supportive environment.
In addition to the four essential assumptions, six key principles are outlined in the TIA. These principles are essential for any organization to be trauma-informed. Each one is outlined below.