Living with Chronic Pain

What Is Trauma-Informed Care?


Trauma involves emotional responses with adverse effects to distressing events. It can potentially lead to life-altering reactions that surface at unpredictable times. Stressful, frightening or unexpected experiences in a medical setting can trigger a fear reaction due to trauma, resulting in the fight-or-flight mode. Roughly 60% of men and 50% of women have encountered at least one trauma in their lifetime, and an estimated 6% of the United States population will experience post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

Providing a safe environment is essential for effective, comprehensive and inclusive medical treatments. A fundamental portion of providing trauma-informed care is for a health care professional to communicate openly, ask and invite questions, and avoid making assumptions. Trauma-informed care ensures that those who have experienced trauma will have a positive experience with their health care providers through six key principles.


The first pillar of trauma-informed care is safety. Not only should individuals feel safe in a health care environment, but they must feel protected by the staff. This should encompass both physical and psychological safety. A traumatized person’s unsafe feelings may not be understood from an outside perspective. Fears should be respected and validated, even though they may seem blown out of proportion.

Trustworthiness and transparency

In order to truly trust a medical provider, there must be full transparency regarding the decision-making process and the execution of operations. For example, withholding diagnosis, discussing a procedure or medication vaguely, or prescribing medications without explaining them can create a hostile environment between a provider and the person receiving treatment.

Peer support

Providing peer support can supply a pathway to hope and healing through solidarity and mutual aid. By connecting individuals and allowing them to share their recovery journeys, they become empowered in their own lives.

Collaboration and mutuality

Healthcare is a collaborative effort, not only among the individual’s providers, but also themselves. Being included in decisions, asking permission to touch them or perform procedures, allowing time for questions, and discussing concerns gives a person greater control in medical settings where compliance is usually expected. Trauma survivors often struggle with feelings of lost control; therefore, providing a space to reclaim power is important in the healing process.

Empowerment and choice

The same fire that melts the butter, hardens the egg. That is to say, everyone is different, and no two people will react the same way to one method. Empowering individuals to make choices about their own care will assist providers in finding the pertinent, individualized approach for those they serve.

Cultural, historical and gender issues

Trauma is experienced at higher rates in marginalized communities, such as people of color, low-income individuals, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Facilities must foster acceptance of these community members and raise awareness of any issues they may face. Actively working against biases, stereotypes and barriers to offer effective and comprehensive services ensures everyone is treated in a safe and welcoming environment.

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