What is Trauma Informed?

A trauma informed lens helps us look at individuals in light of their culture, genetics, and experiences as well as the support, care, and attachment they may have had in early life. As professionals, we may particularly look at the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences one experienced in early life. A trauma informed lens understands that much of our behavior and health is a direct result of our biological makeup and the traumatic experiences that we have lived. When we look at people this way we are better able to respond with compassion, kindness and respect for the unique individual they are. The result is that we can create safer, more connected, and emotionally healthy communities and services where we all benefit and can become our best selves.

We feel it is very important for all of us to become informed on what trauma is, how it impacts a human life, and how we can honor the human experience of everyone we come in contact with. This is particularly important when we work with clients or individuals who have trauma. It is also important to help all of us recognize that the world is a stressful place and many people are experiencing life in a way that can become traumatic. When we understand how trauma affects our biology and behavior, we can engage in ways that support safety, healing, and connection, and ultimately healing. As Bruce Perry says, we look at individuals in light of what happened TO them rather than what is wrong with them.

Not all traumatic experiences become trauma.

When individuals have appropriate support and resources after experiencing trauma, there is a great chance the experience will not remain as trauma. It will become a difficult, or challenging experience in life, but one that was able to be overcome. Additionally, when we understand that the environment that we create, and how we interact with an individual can be an experience that affects their cognitive and emotional state, we are more able to relate to others in a supportive and respectful manner. One that creates emotional safety, connection, and space to function as one’s best self.

What is Trauma:

While there is not yet a universal definition of trauma, the most referenced definition comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: “Trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2014).

What is a Trauma Informed Approach?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists 6 guiding principles to a trauma informed
● Safety
● Trustworthiness & Transparency
● Peer Support
● Collaboration & Mutuality
● Empowerment, Voice, & Choice
● Cultural, Historical, & Gender Issues

ACEs: Adverse Childhood Experiences

The ACE study helped us to understand how adverse experiences in childhood have a large impact on our health and behavior and change the trajectory of one’s life. The Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente conducted the original ACE study. The study included over 17,000 insured participants and helped us to understand how so many serious health problems are related to childhood experiences. The ACE study showed a clear connection between adverse childhood experiences and later diseases, incarceration, and professional outcomes. We have continued to learn more through later studies that also included things such as “bullying, community violence, neighborhood safety, racism, and living in foster care” and human trafficking (National Human Trafficking . . . , n.d.).

Why do ACEs matter?

Aces show a clear link between how we raise, support, and nurture our families and young children and their future health and wellbeing. ACEs directly impact the future of our society. Not all individuals are able to have the same start in life or the basics that support healthy development, making it important that we find ways to support all families in our communities. Their future, our future and the future of our society depends upon this. Understanding what ACEs are, and the impact they have can inform us in how to relate to each other and how we support those around us. It can also inform us as we make policies, determine funding, and create programs for our neighborhoods, cities, and country.

Are you curious about your ACE score?
Take the ACE Quiz

Center for the Developing Child. (n.d.). Take the ACE Quiz – and learn what it does and
doesn’t mean.
Centers for disease control and prevention. (2021). About the CDC-Kaiser ACE study.
Harvard Health Publishing. (2018). Trauma-informed care: What it is, and why it is
National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center. (n.d.). The
original ACE study. Department of Health and Human Services.
SAMSHA. (2014). Trauma-informed care in behavioral health services.
https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/sma14-4816_litreview.pdf. Retrieved from