Steps To Becoming A Trauma Informed Organization

Becoming A Trauma Informed Organization

A trauma-informed service system and/or organization is one in which all components of the system have been reconsidered and evaluated in the light of a basic understanding of the role that violence and trauma play in the lives of people seeking services and the impact that vicarious or secondary trauma has on staff who work with traumatized populations.

SAMHSA’s trauma informed approach is guided by 4 assumptions and 6 key principles, listed below:

(SAMHSA is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

Key Assumptions: The 4 R’s. A trauma informed organization

  1. Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery
  2. Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system
  3. Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices
  4. Resists re-traumatization


The following stages form the basis of creating a trauma-informed organization:

  1. Commit to creating a trauma-informed agency.
  2. Create an initial infrastructure to initiate, support, and guide changes.
  3. Involve key stakeholders, including consumers who have histories of trauma.
  4. Assess whether and to what extent the organization’s current policies, procedures, and operations either support TIC or interfere with the development of a trauma-informed approach.
  5. Develop an organizational plan to implement and support the delivery of TIC within the agency.
  6. Create collaborations between providers and consumers and among service providers and various community agencies.
  7. Put the organizational plan into action.
  8. Reassess the implementation of the plan and its ability to meet the needs of consumers and to provide consistent TIC on an ongoing basis.
  9. Implement quality improvement measures as needs and problem areas are identified.
  10. Institute practices that support sustainability, such as ongoing training, clinical supervision, consumer participation and feedback, and resource allocation.



The National Child Traumatic Stress Network outlines additional criteria for youth and family serving systems to be trauma informed: A service system with a trauma-informed perspective is one in which agencies, programs, and service providers:

  1. Routinely screen for trauma exposure and related symptoms.
  2. Use evidence-based, culturally responsive assessment and treatment for traumatic stress and associated mental health symptoms.
  3. Make resources available to children, families, and providers on trauma exposure, its impact, and treatment.
  4. Engage in efforts to strengthen the resilience and protective factors of children and families impacted by and vulnerable to trauma.
  5. Address parent and caregiver trauma and its impact on the family system.
  6. Emphasize continuity of care and collaboration across child-service systems.
  7. Maintain an environment of care for staff that addresses, minimizes, and treats secondary traumatic stress, and that increases staff wellness.

Trauma Informed Starts with You

Jacob Ham


Adopting a trauma-informed approach is not accomplished through any single particular technique or checklist It requires constant attention, caring awareness, sensitivity, and possibly a cultural change at an organizational level. On-going internal organizational assessment and quali­fy improvement, as well as engagement with community stakeholders, will help to imbed this approach which can be augmented with organi­zational development and practice improvement The training provided by OPHPR and NCTIC was the first step for CDC to view emergency preparedness and response through a trauma-informed lens.

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