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Trauma Responsive Care: Three Ingredients

Every human services organization has three basic elements, the executive suite, with the three Chief Officers and the senior management, the administration staff, which includes middle management, supervisors and support professionals, and direct care staff, who do the work of the organization and have the most sustained contact with the people services by the organization. Trauma Responsive Care covered each of these three shares, identifying the unique tasks of implementing and sustaining a trauma responsive environment as well as how these spheres interact.


The Executive Suite: CHIEF

CHIEF is an acronym for the core characteristics of any good manager. These practices are also supportive of Trauma Responsive Care.


  • Consistent


  • Honest


  • Inquiring


  • Engaged


  • Flexible


Trauma Responsive Care requires a level of buy-in and changes that can only be implemented by senior management. Through this element Aldridge Palay covers mission and values with the aim of creating and reinforcing a culture or responsiveness. This is the foundation of sustainability.

The Lynchpin of Trauma Responsive Care: CARE

Every organization has a lynchpin. In human services organizations, it’s the front-line manager and the support professionals. They have the most contact with all parts of the organization, be it the executive suite, back-office functions or day-to-day operations. If good things happen, they hear about them and are best positioned to replicate them. If something bad happens, they feel it. Front-line managers and professional support personnel can make or break any change effort. To make your agency trauma responsive, you have to care, or CARE, for this group of people.


A frontline manager cannot expect her staff to help people feel safe, connected and in control if she herself does not feel that way. In Trauma Responsive Care, Compassionate and Responsive Empathy (CARE), focuses supporting, teaching and nurturing these workers. They are vulnerable to vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and burn-out.


CARE is the part of Trauma Responsive Care that equips middle management, supervisors and professional support staff. It also includes the Resource Team. This team is a small group of people trained to make Trauma Responsive Care sustainable. They are the trainers and the resource people for other clinical tools or Trauma Responsive Care.


Impacting Staff: The CALMER Skills

It’s not enough to be informed about trauma. We have to know how to respond to it. Responding effectively and compassionately to individuals who have been affected by trauma helps organizations to have better outcomes with its most difficult-to-serve population. It can mean lower injuries and unusual incident rates and higher staff retention. The known and unknown traumas your individuals (and your staff) have experienced make it harder for your agency to fulfill its mission of helping people have better lives.


The most important part of Trauma Responsive Care is its direct attention to staff. The ‘product’ of any human service organization is the moment-by-moment interactions between staff and the individual. Making those staff interactions skilled, responsive and caring can mean not just to manage trauma, but to begin to heal it.