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Trauma Responsive Care: Three Ingredients

Trauma means feeing unsafe and out of control. Responding means helping people to feel safe and in control. This happens through connecting, in relationships. Everyone in the organization, especially direct care staff, need to understand why this is so important. We teach exactly what trauma is and how it affects us. Understanding the why means they are more likely to remember what they need to do for trauma.

But this increased knowledge and understanding is not enough. Staffs also need practical easy-to-implement skills to help them help their individuals feel safe, connected and in control. These skills have to be supported and reinforced by management. That’s why we offer the CALMER Skills-based on research, easily and practically applied.

Trauma Responsive Care has three crucial ingredients. These ingredients have been distilled from research in trauma, the brain, and implementation and change science.


Trauma Responsive Care requires helping everyone feel safe, connected and in control. The fastest road to safe and in control is through being connected with caring human beings. These safe, stable relationships are the basis for healing from trauma. That’s why TRC fits with any other relational initiative like People First, Person-Centered Planning, Positive Psychology, Gentle Teaching and others.

Universal Precaution

We think screening for histories of trauma is important. But, trauma screening is only as good as the history we know, so there’s a lot of trauma we helping professionals will never catch. The other limit on screening is that no instrument we’ve seen so far can measure ‘little T’ trauma.

Research suggests that over 60% of the general population and up to 90% of groups of people with disabilities have traumatic stress. How do you know who to support for trauma, and how do you choose among that many people? Our answer—universal precautions. We protect ourselves from infectious disease by taking simple, low-cost (or no-cost) steps before we do anything else. It’s not invasive, so we aren’t over-treating. We just assume everyone has the possibility of carrying a virus or bacteria and act accordingly. In the same way, in a trauma-responsive agency you treat everyone-staff and individuals—as if they have some traumatic stress and help them feel safe, connected and in control before you do anything else. No traumatic stress at all? That’s fine. Who doesn’t want to feel safe, connected and in control?


TRC has to apply to everyone, from management to maintenance. Under Trauma Responsive Care it is everyone’s job to help the person they are with to feel safe, connected and in control. This makes implementation and sustainability everyone’s job. When it comes from the top-down, change has a better chance at becoming permanent. People pay attention to what their boss pays attention to, and everyone pays attention to policies and procedures, so we work with everyone in and every part of the agency.

Trauma Responsive Care: Click for more information on Elements and outcomes. Or go back to Introduction or Home.

Trauma Responsive Care