What is Trauma-Informed Care for Mood Disorders?

Traumatic experiences are unfortunately common in the United States. The National Center on PTSD reports that 60 percent of men and 51 percent of women will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. Other sources suggest that the lifetime prevalence of trauma may be as high as 80 percent of the population. As experts gain a greater understanding of the long-term impact of trauma such as mental health issues and substance abuse, professionals and organizations in a variety of disciplines are embracing and incorporating a concept known as trauma-informed care.

Principles of Trauma-Informed Care for Anxiety and Depression

The term “trauma-informed care” is an umbrella term that can be applied to a variety of interventions and treatment techniques. The general goal of trauma-informed care is to be aware that a person who is seeking services for anxiety, depressive disorders, or other behavioral health issues may have a history of trauma; factoring this awareness into treatment planning and other interactions with the individual.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), trauma-informed care is defined not by a specific set of procedures, but rather by a focus on the following six objectives:

  • Safety
  • Trustworthiness and transparency
  • Peer support
  • Collaboration and mutuality
  • Empowerment, voice, and choice
  • Cultural, historical, and gender issues

SAMHSA also notes that trauma-informed care should address the following three principles:

  • The need of the individual in treatment to be respected, informed, connected, and hopeful regarding his or her recovery
  • The relationship between the individual’s history of trauma and his or her current struggles with a mental or behavioral health disorder
  • The value of collaboration (among the individual, his or her loved ones, and any necessary professional resources) in the effort to promote long-term recovery

Sources of Trauma-Informed Care

The fundamentals of trauma-informed care are not limited to residential or inpatient treatment centers, or even to sources that are most commonly associated with providing mental or behavioral health care.

For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care (NCTIC) have identified the following as examples of the many individuals and organizations that can incorporate the principles of trauma-informed care into their work with clients and patients:

  • Private therapists and counselors
  • Primary care physicians
  • Community-based behavioral health agencies
  • Social workers and case managers
  • Providers of services for homeless individuals and families
  • Agencies that support individuals who are living with HIV/AIDS
  • Domestic violence organizations

Within the mental and behavioral healthcare field, the following are just a few examples of the many trauma-specific treatment techniques or programs that may be offered by professionals or organizations that embrace the concept of trauma-informed care:

  • Addiction and trauma recovery integration model (ATRIUM)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Seeking safety treatment model
  • Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT)
  • Trauma recovery and empowerment model (TREM)

Benefits of Trauma-Informed Care

Given the broad scope of services that can be included under the category of trauma-informed care, identifying specific benefits of this approach is best accomplished on a case-by-case or person-by-person basis. However, with that understanding, the following are among the ways that the philosophy of trauma-informed care can have a positive impact not only on individuals who are receiving treatment, but also on the professionals and organizations that are providing these services:

  • Reduces likelihood of re-traumatization
  • Improves effectiveness of treatment and decreases risk of relapse
  • Enhances collaboration during treatment, effective referrals, and continued support
  • Limits use of redundant or unnecessary interventions
  • Promotes resiliency and empowerment
  • Decreases potential for negative encounters within the treatment environment

Ultimately, a philosophy that includes trauma-informed care can create a more welcoming, supportive, and beneficial atmosphere for professionals, support staff, individuals in treatment, family members, and others.