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Creating Cultures of Trauma-Informed Care: A Self-Assessment and Planning Protocol



This document outlines the fundamentals of the Creating Cultures of Trauma-Informed Care approach to organizational change. Buyilidng on core vales of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment, this framework includes equal attention to the experiences of those receiving and those providing services. Though built on a foundation of behavioral health (mental health and substance abuse) agencies, this approach has been adapted to schools, to general medical settings, and to a variety of correctional settings, including juvenile justice.
Creating Cultures of Trauma-Informed Care (CCTIC):
A Self-Assessment and Planning Protocol
Roger D. Fallot, Ph.D. and Maxine Harris, Ph.D.
November, 2011
Over the past fifteen years, there has been growing acknowledgement of several
interrelated facts concerning the prevalence and impact of trauma in the lives of people in
contact with various human service systems. We advocate for trauma-informed service
approaches for a number of reasons.
Trauma is pervasive. National community-based surveys find that between 55 and
90% of us have experienced at least one traumatic event. And individuals report, on average,
that they have experienced nearly five traumatic events in their lifetimes. The experience of
trauma is not the rare exception we once considered it. It is part and parcel of our social reality.
The impact of trauma is very broad and touches many life domains. Trauma
exposure increases the risk of a tremendous range of vulnerabilities: mental health problems like
posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, excessive hostility, and generalized anxiety; substance
abuse; physical health problems; interpersonal struggles; eating disorders; and suicidality, among
many others. Trauma thus touches many areas of life not obviously or readily connected with
the experience of trauma itself. This broad impact makes it particularly important to understand
the less evident links between trauma and its sequelae.
The impact of trauma is often deep and life-shaping. Trauma can be fundamentally
life-altering, especially for those individuals who have faced repeated and prolonged abuse and
especially when the violence is perpetrated by those who were supposed to be caretakers.
Physical, sexual, and emotional violence become central realities around which profound
neurobiological and psychosocial adaptations occur. Survivors may come to see themselves as
fundamentally flawed and to perceive the world as a pervasively dangerous place. Trauma may
shape a person’s way of being in the world; it can deflate the spirit and trample the soul.
Violent trauma is often self-perpetuating. Individuals who are victims of violence are
at increased risk of becoming perpetrators themselves. The intergenerational transmission of
violence is well documented. Community violence is often built around cycles of retaliation.
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Many of our institutionscriminal justice settings, certainly, but also schools and churches and
hospitalsare too frequently places where violent trauma is perpetuated rather than eliminated.
Trauma is insidious and preys particularly on the more vulnerable among us.
People who are poor, who are homeless, who have been diagnosed with severe mental health
problems, who are addicted to drugs, or who have developmental disabilitiesall of these
groups are at increased risk of violent victimization.
Trauma affects the way people approach potentially helpful relationships. Not
surprisingly, those individuals with histories of abuse are often reluctant to engage in, or quickly
drop out of, many human services. Being vigilant and suspicious are often important and
thoroughly understandable self-protective mechanisms in coping with trauma exposure. But
these same ways of coping may make it more difficult for survivors to feel the safety and trust
necessary to helpful relationships.
Trauma has often occurred in the service context itself. Involuntary and physically
coercive practices, as well as other activities that trigger trauma-related reactions, are still too
common in our centers of help and care.
Trauma affects staff members as well as consumers in human services programs.
Stressors deeply affect administrators, clinicians, and support staff working in human services.
Not only is “secondary” or “vicarious” traumatization common but direct threats to physical and
emotional safety are also frequent concerns. Being asked to do “more and more with less and
less” becomes a pervasive theme underlying work experiences that may threaten to overwhelm
coping abilities.
Growing awareness of these facts regarding trauma has led to calls for the development
of both trauma-informed and trauma-specific services. Human service systems become trauma-
informed by thoroughly incorporating, in all aspects of service delivery, an understanding of the
prevalence and impact of trauma and the complex paths to healing and recovery. Trauma-
informed services are designed specifically to avoid retraumatizing those who come seeking
assistance as well as staff working in service settings. These services seek “safety first” and
commit themselves to “do no harm.” The SAMHSA-funded Women, Co-Occurring Disorders,
and Violence Study (1998-2003) has provided evidence that trauma-informed approaches can
enhance the effectiveness of mental health and substance abuse services. By contrast, trauma-
specific services have a more focused primary task: to directly address trauma and its impact
and to facilitate trauma recovery. An increasing number of promising and evidence-based
practices address PTSD and other consequences of trauma, especially for people who often bring
other complicating vulnerabilities (e.g., substance use, severe mental health problems,
homelessness, contact with the criminal justice system) to the service setting.
This Self-Assessment and Planning Protocol and its accompanying CCTIC Program Self-
Assessment Scale attempt to provide clear, consistent guidelines for agencies or programs
interested in facilitating trauma-informed modifications in their service systems. It is a tool for
administrators, providers, and survivor-consumers to use in the development, implementation,
evaluation, and ongoing monitoring of trauma-informed programs.
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Overview of the Change Process, Protocol, and Scale
Culture Change in Human Service Programs
The Creating Cultures of Trauma-Informed Care approach to organizational change is built on
five core values of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment. If a
program can say that its culture reflects each of these values in each contact, physical setting,
relationship, and activity and that this culture is evident in the experiences of staff as well as
consumers, then the program’s culture is trauma-informed.
We emphasize organizational culture because it represents the most inclusive and general level
of an agency or program’s fundamental approach to its work. Organizational culture reflects
what a program considers important and unimportant, what warrants attention, how it
understands the people it serves and the people who serve them, and how it puts these
understandings into daily practice. In short, culture expresses the basic values of a program.
Culture thus extends well beyond the introduction of new services or the training of a particular
subset of staff members; it is pervasive, including all aspects of an agency’s functioning.
In order to accomplish this culture change, we strongly recommend several steps:
1) Initial Planning. In this phase, the program considers the importance of, and weighs its
commitment to, a trauma-informed change process. The following elements are key to the
successful planning of organizational trauma-informed change: a) administrative commitment to
and support of the initiative (see Domain 4 below); b) the formation of a trauma initiative
workgroup to lead and oversee the change process; c) the full representation of each significant
stakeholder group on the workgroupadministrators, supervisors, direct service staff, support
staff, and consumers; d) identification of trauma “champions” to keep the initiative alive and “on
the front burner;” e) programmatic awareness of the scope (the entire agency and its culture) and
timeline (usually up to two years) of the culture shift.
Discussions of trauma-informed program modifications constitute an opportunity to involve all
key groups in the review and planning process. In our experience, the more inclusive and fully
representative these discussions are, the more effective and substantial the resulting changes.
2) A Kickoff Training Event. Usually two days long, the kickoff training is attended by as
many of the staff as practical and includes significant consumer representation; it certainly
includes all members of the trauma initiative workgroup. During this event, there are at least
three presentations. In the first, central ideas of trauma-informed cultures are presented,
emphasizing shifts in both understanding and in practice. Second, the importance of staff
support and care is emphasized, ensuring that staff members experience the same values in the
organizational culture that consumers need to experience. Finally, a third presentation addresses
the importance of trauma in the work of the specific agency (e.g., trauma and substance use,
trauma and children or youth, trauma and mental health problems). There is also a great deal of
time for the workgroup members and other attendees to discuss the planning process in more
detail and to conduct preliminary conversations that will mirror those to be held in the larger
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agency after the kickoff. The goal of the kickoff is to motivate and energize the change process
while simultaneously providing a beginning sense of direction. The kickoff ends with discussion
of next steps in the implementation of this change initiative.
3) Short-term Follow-up. Over the next several months, the agency takes the ideas from the
training and applies them in more detail, using this Self-Assessment and Planning Protocol.
First, the workgroup develops an Implementation Plan for review by the rest of the
administration, staff, and consumers, as well as by outside consultants with experience in
facilitating agency change. Community Connections consultants, for example, provide detailed
feedback on Implementation Plans; discuss any barriers as they arise; and assist in developing
strategies to overcome these obstacles. Community Connections staff offer this consultation on
site or by written or telephone discussions.
Simultaneously, two educational events are scheduled for all staff. The first is on
Understanding Trauma or Trauma 101. This training is designed to discuss the prevalence
and impact of trauma as well as some of the multiple paths to recovery, emphasizing the ways in
which trauma may be seen in the lives of consumers and in the work experience of staff. The
second training focuses more directly on Staff Support and Care, emphasizing that a culture
shift toward a trauma-informed system of care rests on staff members’ experiences of safety,
trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment. Ideally, these training events are
offered by experienced trainers who are also able and willing to encourage and teach staff
members to become trainers themselves. In this way, as the program is able, its own trainers
become equipped to pass along the important information about trauma to newer or untrained
4) Longer-term Follow-up. After about six-nine months, Community Connections consultants
revisit the program site to meet with the workgroup and selected others, in order to review and
discuss progress to date. At that time, ongoing processes may be put in place to sustain the
initiative to its conclusion. Depending on the programs needs and interests, consultants may
return for additional site visits until the trauma-informed care initiative is firmly established in
the agency culture. Sustainability is obviously a key factor in this transformation and programs
have a range of choices about the best ways to maintain a trauma-informed culture. For
example, many agencies build trauma-informed questions into their Consumer Satisfaction
Survey (or use a specially developed survey to capture the five core values for consumers and
staff). Many add the Implementation Plans to the quality assurance or improvement process.
Still others, in larger systems, discuss ways to build in consultation to their own and other
agencies through a “train the consultant” approach. The most important goal in this phase is to
maintain the momentum established after the kickoff training until the culture change is
thoroughgoing. In our experience, this process may take from two to five years.
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The CCTIC Self-Assessment and Planning Protocol
The Self-Assessment and Planning Protocol is divided into six domains; they address
both services-level and administrative or systems-level changes. In each domain, there are
guiding questions for a collaborative discussion by a comprehensive workgroup of a program’s
activities and physical settings, followed by a list of more specific questions and/or possible
indicators of a trauma-informed approach. Many of these questions and indicators are drawn
from the experiences of human service agencies that have previously engaged in this self-
Part A: Services-level Changes
Domain 1. Program Procedures and Settings: “To what extent are program activities and
settings consistent with five guiding principles of trauma-informed practice: safety,
trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment?”
This section of the protocol can be used to assess the extent to which formal and informal
procedures and the physical environment in a human services program are trauma-informed and
to plan corresponding modifications in service delivery practices. Consumer-survivors should be
actively involved in the review process as should support staff, direct service staff, supervisors,
and administrators.
Step One: Identify Key Formal and Informal Activities and Settings
The goal of Step One is to gain a comprehensive sense of the experiences of both consumers and
staff members as they come to the setting and participate in its activities, relationships, and
physical settings. The goal of this review is to capture for each of these groupsconsumer and
stafftheir experiences in detail from their very first to their very last contact with the program
or agency. Though some programs accomplish this effectively by forming a representative
workgroup to review the full range of contacts, others have found it very helpful to engage in a
“walk-through.” A walk-through is a process in which staff members come to the setting “as if”
they are new consumers and thus enter the setting with a consumer-oriented perspective. For
more details about one way to conduct such a walk-through, see the NIATx website: Sites routinely begin by focusing on the experiences of consumers and then
repeat the process for staff members.
A. List the sequence of service activities in which new consumers are usually involved (e.g.,
outreach, intake, assessment, service planning). Think broadly to include informal as
well as formal contacts. For example, consumers may be greeted and given directions by
a number of people prior to formal service delivery.
B. Identify the staff members (positions and individuals) who have contact with consumers
at each point in this process.
C. Identify the settings in which the various activities are likely to take place (e.g., home,
waiting room, telephone, office, institution).
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Step Two: Ask Key Questions about Each of the Activities and Settings
(See list of questions for Domains 1A-1J following Step Four)
Step Three: Prioritize Goals for Change
After the workgroup has reviewed services and has developed a list of possible trauma-informed
changes in service delivery procedures, these goals for change should be prioritized. Among the
factors to consider in this prioritizing are the following: (1) feasibility (which goals are most
likely to be accomplished because of their scale and the kind of change involved?); (2) resources
(which goals are most consistent with the financial, personal, and other resources available?); (3)
system support (which goals have the most influential and widespread support?); (4) breadth of
impact (which goals are most likely to have a broad impact on services?); (5) quality of impact
(which goals will make the most difference in the lives of consumers?); (6) risks and costs of not
changing (which practices, if not changed, will have the most negative impact?).
Step Four: Identify Specific Objectives and Responsible Persons
After goals have been prioritized, specific objectives (measurable outcomes with timelines for
achievement) can be stated and persons responsible for implementing and monitoring the
corresponding tasks can be named. These objectives are incorporated into the program’s
Implementation Plan.
Domain 1A. SafetyEnsuring Physical and Emotional Safety
Key Questions: “To what extent do the program’s activities and settings ensure the
physical and emotional safety of consumers? How can services be modified to ensure
this safety more effectively and consistently?”
Sample Specific Questions:
How safe is the area around the program’s building? Are sidewalks and parking areas
well-lit? How far do consumers need to walk to get to the building or program entrance?
Is this walk a safe one?
Are directions to the program’s location readily available? Are they clear?
Once a consumer arrives, are directions to the receptionist or other offices clear?
Where are services delivered? In the office, institution, home, or community? What
safety considerations are important in the location of various services?
When are they delivered? Are there services available in addition to usual office hours?
If so, what safety considerations are important in the timing of various services?
Who is present (other consumers, etc.)? Are security personnel present? What impact
do these others have?
What signs and other visual materials are there? Are they welcoming? Clear? Legible?
Are doors locked or open? Are there easily accessible exits?
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How would you describe the reception and waiting areas, interview rooms, etc.? Are
they comfortable and inviting?
Are restrooms easily accessible? Are there signs indicating their location?
Are the first contacts with consumers welcoming, respectful, and engaging?
Do consumers receive clear explanations and information about each task and
procedure? Are the rationales made explicit? Is the program mission explained? Are
specific goals and objectives made clear? Does each contact conclude with information
about what comes next?
Are staff attentive to signs of consumer discomfort or unease? Do they understand these
signs in a trauma-informed way?
What events have occurred that indicate a lack of safetyphysically or emotionally
(e.g., arguments, conflicts, assaults)? What triggered these incidents? What alternatives
could be put in place to minimize the likelihood of their recurrence?
Is there adequate personal space for individual consumers?
In making contact with consumers, is there sensitivity to potentially unsafe situations
(e.g., domestic violence)?
Domain 1B. TrustworthinessMaximizing Trustworthiness through Task Clarity,
Consistency, and Interpersonal Boundaries
Key Questions: “To what extent do the program’s activities and settings maximize
trustworthiness by making the tasks involved in service delivery clear, by ensuring
consistency in practice, and by maintaining boundaries that are appropriate to the
program? How can services be modified to ensure that tasks and boundaries are
established and maintained clearly and appropriately? How can the program maximize
honesty and transparency?
Sample Specific Questions:
Does the program provide clear information about what will be done, by whom, when,
why, under what circumstances, at what cost, with what goals?
When, if at all, do boundaries veer from those of the respectful professional? Are there
pulls toward more friendly (personal information sharing, touching, exchanging home
phone numbers, contacts outside professional appointments, loaning money, etc.) and less
professional contacts in this setting?
How does the program handle dilemmas between role clarity and accomplishing
multiple tasks (e.g., especially in residential work and counseling or case management,
there are significant possibilities for more personal and less professional relationships)?
How does the program communicate reasonable expectations regarding the completion
of particular tasks or the receipt of services? Is the information realistic about the
program’s lack of control in certain circumstances (e.g., in housing renovation or time to
receive entitlements)? Is unnecessary consumer disappointment avoided?
What is involved in the informed consent process? Is both the information provided and
the consent obtained taken seriously? That is, are the goals, risks, and benefits clearly
outlined and does the consumer have a genuine choice to withhold consent or give partial
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Domain 1C. ChoiceMaximizing Consumer Choice and Control.
Key Questions: “To what extent do the program’s activities and settings maximize
consumer experiences of choice and control? How can services be modified to ensure
that consumer experiences of choice and control are maximized?”
Sample Specific Questions:
How much choice does each consumer have over what services he or she receives?
Over when, where, and by whom the service is provided (e.g., time of day or week, office
vs. home vs. other locale, gender of provider)?
Does the consumer choose how contact is made (e.g., by phone, mail, to home or other
Does the program build in small choices that make a difference to consumer-survivors
(e.g., When would you like me to call? Is this the best number for you? Is there some
other way you would like me to reach you or would you prefer to get in touch with me?)
How much control does the consumer have over starting and stopping services (both
overall service involvement and specific service times and dates)?
Is each consumer informed about the choices and options available?
To what extent are the individual consumer’s priorities given weight in terms of services
received and goals established?
How many services are contingent on participating in other services? Do consumers get
the message that they have to “prove” themselves in order to “earn” other services?
Do consumers get a clear and appropriate message about their rights and
responsibilities? Does the program communicate that its services are a privilege over
which the consumer has little control?
Are there negative consequences for exercising particular choices? Are these necessary
or arbitrary consequences?
Does the consumer have choices about who attends various meetings? Are support
persons permitted to join planning and other appropriate meetings?
Domain 1D. CollaborationMaximizing Collaboration and Sharing Power
Key Questions: “To what extent do the program’s activities and settings maximize
collaboration and sharing of power between staff and consumers? How can services
be modified to ensure that collaboration and power-sharing are maximized?”
Sample Specific Questions:
Do consumers have a significant role in planning and evaluating the agency’s services?
How is this “built in” to the agency’s activities? Is there a Consumer Advisory Board?
Are there members who identify themselves as trauma survivors? Do these individuals
understand part of their role to serve as consumer advocates? As trauma educators?
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Do providers communicate respect for the consumer’s life experiences and history,
allowing the consumer to place them in context (recognizing consumer strengths and
In service planning, goal setting, and the development of priorities, are consumer
preferences given substantial weight?
Are consumers involved as frequently as feasible in service planning meetings? Are
their priorities elicited and then validated in formulating the plan?
Does the program cultivate a model of doing “with” rather than “to” or “for”
Does the program and its providers communicate a conviction that the consumer is the
ultimate expert on her or his own experience?
Do providers identify tasks on which both they and consumers can work simultaneously
(e.g., information-gathering)?
Domain 1E. EmpowermentPrioritizing Empowerment and Skill-Building
Key Questions: “To what extent do the program’s activities and settings prioritize
consumer empowerment and skill-building? How can services be modified to ensure
that experiences of empowerment and the development or enhancement of consumer
skills are maximized?”
Sample Specific Questions:
Do consumer-survivor advocates have significant advisory voice in the planning and
evaluation of services?
In routine service provision, how are each consumer’s strengths and skills recognized?
Does the program communicate a sense of realistic optimism about the capacity of
consumers to reach their goals?
Does the program emphasize consumer growth more than maintenance or stability?
Does the program foster the involvement of consumers in key roles wherever possible
(e.g., in planning, implementation, or evaluation of services)?
For each contact, how can the consumer feel validated and affirmed?
How can each contact or service be focused on skill-development or enhancement?
Does each contact aim at two endpoints whenever possible: (1) accomplishing the given
task and (2) skill-building on the part of the consumer?
Domain 1F. Safety for StaffEnsuring Physical and Emotional Safety
Key Questions: “To what extent do the program’s activities and settings ensure the
physical and emotional safety of staff members? How can services be modified to
ensure this safety more effectively and consistently?”
Sample Specific Questions:
Do staff members feel physically safe? Do staff members provide services in areas
other than the office? If so, what safety considerations are important?
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Do staff members feel emotionally safe? In relationships with administrators and
supervisors, do staff members feel supported?
Is the physical environment safe--with accessible exits, readily contacted assistance if
it is needed, enough space for people to be comfortable, and adequate privacy?
Do staff members feel comfortable bringing their clinical concerns, vulnerabilities,
and emotional responses to client care to team meetings, supervision sessions or a
Does the program attend to the emotional safety needs of support staff as well as
those of clinicians?
Domain 1G. Trustworthiness for StaffMaximizing Trustworthiness through Task
Clarity, Consistency, and Interpersonal Boundaries
Key Questions: “To what extent do the program’s activities and settings maximize
trustworthiness by making the tasks involved in service delivery clear, by ensuring
consistency in practice, and by maintaining boundaries that are appropriate to the
program? How can services and work tasks be modified to ensure that tasks and
boundaries are established and maintained clearly and appropriately? How can the
program maximize honesty and transparency?”
Sample Specific Questions:
Do program directors and clinical supervisors have an understanding of the work of
direct care staff? Is there an understanding of the emotional impact (burnout,
vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue) of direct care? How is this understanding
Is self-care encouraged and supported with policy and practice?
Do all staff members receive clinical supervision that attends to both consumer and
clinician concerns in the context of the clinical relationship? Is this supervision
clearly separated from administrative supervision that focuses on such issues as
paperwork and billing?
Do program directors and supervisors make their expectations of staff clear? Are
these consistent and fair for all staff positions, including support staff?
Do program directors and supervisors make the program’s mission, goals, and
objectives clear?
Do program directors and supervisors make specific plans for program
implementation and changes clear? Is there consistent follow through on announced
plans? Or, in the event of changed plans, are these announced and reasons for
changes explained?
Can supervisors and administrators be trusted to listen respectfully to supervisees’
concerns—even if they don’t agree with some of the possible implications?
Domain 1H. Choice for StaffMaximizing Staff Choice and Control.
Key Questions: “To what extent do the program’s activities and settings maximize
staff experiences of choice and control? How can services and work tasks be modified
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to ensure that staff experiences of choice and control are maximized, especially in the
way that staff members’ work goals are met?”
Sample Specific Questions:
Is there a balance of autonomy and clear guidelines in performing job duties? Is there
attention paid to ways in which staff members can make choices in how they meet job
When possible, are staff members given the opportunity to have meaningful input
into factors affecting their work: size and diversity of caseload, hours and flex-time,
when to take vacation or other leave, kinds of training that are offered, approaches to
clinical care, location and décor of office space?
Domain 1I. Collaboration for StaffMaximizing Collaboration and Sharing Power
Key Questions: “To what extent do the program’s activities and settings maximize
collaboration and sharing of power among staff, supervisors, and administrators (as
well as consumers)? How can services be modified to ensure that collaboration and
power-sharing are maximized?”
Sample Specific Questions:
Does the agency have a thoughtful and planned response to implementing change that
encourages collaboration among staff at all levels, including support staff?
Are staff members encouraged to provide suggestions, feedback, and ideas to their
team and the larger agency? Is there a formal and structured way that program
administrators solicit staff members’ input?
Do program directors and supervisors communicate that staff members’ opinions are
valued even if they are not always implemented?
Domain 1J. Empowerment for StaffPrioritizing Empowerment and Skill-
Key Questions: “To what extent do the program’s activities and settings prioritize
staff empowerment and skill-building? How can services be modified to ensure that
experiences of empowerment and the development or enhancement of staff skills are
maximized? How can the program ensure that staff members have the resources
necessary to do their jobs well?”
Sample Specific Questions:
Are each staff member’s strengths and skills utilized to provide the best quality care
to consumers/clients and a high degree of job satisfaction to that staff member?
Are staff members offered development, training, or other support opportunities to
assist with work-related challenges and difficulties? To build on staff skills and
abilities? To further their career goals?
Do all staff members receive annual training in areas related to trauma, including the
impact of workplace stressors?
Do program directors and supervisors adopt a positive, affirming attitude in
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encouraging staff, both clinicians and support staff, to fulfill work tasks?
Is there appropriate attention to staff accountability and shared responsibility or is
there a “blame the person with the least power” approach? Is supervisory feedback
constructive, even when critical?
Domain 2. Formal Services Policies
Key Questions: “To what extent do the formal policies of the program reflect an
understanding of trauma survivors’ needs, strengths, and challenges? Of staff needs? Are
these policies monitored and implemented consistently?”
Some Possible Indicators:
Policies regarding confidentiality and access to information are clear; provide adequate
protection for the privacy of both consumers and staff members; and are communicated to the
consumer and staff in an appropriate way.
The program avoids involuntary or potentially coercive aspects of treatmentinvoluntary
hospitalization or medication, representative payeeship, outpatient commitmentwhenever
The program has developed a de-escalation or “code blue” policy that minimizes the possibility
of retraumatization.
The program has developed ways to respect consumer preferences in responding to crisesvia
“advance directives” or formal statements of consumer choice.
The program has a clearly written, easily accessible statement of consumers’ and staff
members’ rights and responsibilities as well as a grievance policy.
The program’s policies address issues related to staff safety. For example:
Policies address if and when a staff member may be alone in the building or on duty.
Policies govern specific ways for staff to offer home or community based services.
Incident reviews follow verbal or physical confrontations and lead to effective plans
to reduce staff vulnerability.
Domain 3. Trauma Screening, Assessment, Service Planning and Trauma-Specific Services
Key Question: “To what extent does the program have a consistent way to identify individuals
who have been exposed to trauma, to conduct appropriate follow-up assessments, to include
trauma-related information in planning services with the consumer, and to provide access to
effective and affordable trauma-specific services?”
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Some Possible Indicators:
Staff members have reviewed existing instruments to see the range of possible screening tools.
At least minimal questions addressing physical and sexual abuse are included in trauma
Screening avoids overcomplication and unnecessary detail so as to minimize stress for
The program recognizes that the process of trauma screening is usually much more important
than the content of the questions. The following have been considered:
What will it mean to ask these questions?
How can they be addressed most appropriatelyfor the likely consumers, for the
service context, time available, prior relationship, possible future relationship, at various
points in the intake/assessment process?
The need for standardization of screening across sites is balanced with the unique needs of
each program or setting.
The screening process avoids unnecessary repetition. While there is no need to ask the same
questions at multiple points in the intake or assessment process, there is often a good rationale
for returning to the questions after some appropriate time interval.
Screening is followed as appropriate (given the nature and goals of the program, the length of
time consumers are involved, and the specific relationships established with staff members) by a
more extensive assessment of trauma history (type, duration, and timing of trauma) and of
trauma-related sequelae (addressing resilience-related strengths and coping skills as well as
vulnerabilities and problems).
In service planning, clinicians and consumers discuss ways in which trauma may be taken into
account in clinicians’ work with the consumer to achieve the consumer’s goals (e.g., the place of
trauma and trauma-related strengths and problems in giving shape to the recovery plan, its
priorities, and the services and other supports that may be useful).
The program either offers or makes referrals to accessible, affordable, and effective trauma-
specific services. Group and individual approaches to trauma recovery and healing are both
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Part B: Systems-level/Administrative Changes
Domain 4. Administrative Support for Program-Wide Trauma-Informed Services
Key Question: “ To what extent do program or agency administrators support the integration
of knowledge about violence and abuse into all program practices?”
Some Possible Indicators:
The existence of a policy statement or the adoption of general policy statement from other
organizations that refers to the importance of trauma and the need to account for consumer
experiences of trauma in service delivery.
The existence of a “trauma initiative” (e.g., workgroup, trauma specialist).
Designation of a competent person with administrative skills and organizational
credibility for this task.
Chief administrator meets periodically with trauma workgroup or specialist.
Administrator supports the recommendations of the trauma workgroup or specialist and
follows through on these plans.
Administrators work closely with a Consumer Advisory group that includes significant trauma
survivor membership. Consumer-survivor members of this group identify themselves as trauma
survivors and understand a part of their role as consumer advocacy. an active role in
all aspects of service planning, implementation, and evaluation.
Administrators are creative in finding ways to elicit consumer suggestions and feedback on the
process of becoming trauma-informed. These mechanisms may include focus groups; suggestion
boxes; walk-throughs by senior administrators to check in with consumers (and staff); brief
feedback sessions or surveys following groups or other interventions; special events to highlight
the initiative; among others.
Administrators actively support the trauma-informed culture change initiative by marketing it
throughout the agency, raising its profile and making it a central part of the programs agenda
and mission. Administrators recognize the value of everyones enthusiastic participation in the
initiative and facilitate broad-based buy-in from all groups.
Administrators make collaboration and shared decision-making a key part of their leadership
style. When working with staff members and consumer advisors, they listen respectfully and
solicit ideas for project development. Whenever possible and practical, they involve both staff
and consumers in planning, implementing, and evaluating program changes.
Administrators make basic resources available in support of trauma-informed service
modifications (e.g., time, space, training money).
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Administrators support the availability and accessibility of trauma-specific services where
appropriate; they are willing to be creative about finding alternative reimbursement strategies for
trauma services.
Administrators find necessary sources of funding for trauma training and education (this
sometimes requires going outside the usual funding mechanisms in a creative way).
Administrators are willing to release both direct service and support staff from their usual
duties so that they may attend trainings, plan trauma-informed changes, and deliver trauma-
specific services. Funding is sought in support of these activities.
Administrators are willing to attend trauma training themselves (vs. sending designees in their
places); they allocate some of their own time to trauma-focused work (e.g., meeting with trauma
initiative representatives, keeping abreast of trauma initiatives in similar program areas).
Administrators participate actively in identifying objectives for systems change.
Administrators monitor the program’s progress by identifying and tracking core objectives of
the trauma-informed change process
Administrators may arrange pilot projects for trauma-informed parts of the system.
Domain 5. Staff Trauma Training and Education
Key Question: “To what extent have all staff members received appropriate training in
trauma and its implications for their work?”
Some Possible Indicators:
General education (including basic information about trauma and its impact) has been offered
for all employees in the program with a primary goal of sensitization to trauma-related dynamics
and the avoidance of retraumatization.
Staff members have received education in a trauma-informed understanding of unusual or
difficult behaviors. (One of the emphases in such training is on respect for people’s coping
attempts and avoiding a rush to negative judgments.)
Staff members have received basic education in the maintenance of personal and professional
boundaries (e.g., confidentiality, dual relationships, sexual harassment).
Clinical staff members have received trauma education involving specific modifications of
services in their content area: clinical, residential, case management, substance use, for example.
Staff members have received training in basic coping skills for trauma survivors, including
psychoeducational framing of trauma-related experiences and coping responses, grounding and
emotional modulation techniques, and safety planning,
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Trauma clinicians have received training in additional skills-based and other trauma-specific
Staff members offering trauma-specific services are provided adequate support via supervision
and/or consultation (including the topics of vicarious traumatization and clinician self-care).
Domain 6. Human Resources Practices: “To what extent are trauma-related concerns
part of the hiring and performance review process?”
Key Question: “To what extent are trauma-related concerns part of the hiring and
performance review process?”
Some Possible Indicators:
The program seeks to hire (or identify among current staff) trauma “champions,” individuals
who are knowledgeable about trauma and its effects; who prioritize trauma sensitivity in service
provision; who communicate the importance of trauma to others in their work groups; and who
support trauma-informed changes in service delivery.
Prospective staff interviews include trauma content (What do applicants know about trauma?
about domestic violence? about the impact of childhood sexual abuse? Do they understand the
long-term consequences of abuse? What are applicants’ initial responses to questions about
abuse and violence?)
Incentives, bonuses, and promotions for line staff and supervisors take into account the staff
member’s role in trauma-related activities (specialized training, program development, etc.).
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Addendum A: Possible Items for Consumer Satisfaction Surveys
(Items are worded to be consistent with a Likert response scale from “strongly disagree” to
“strongly agree;” specific items and wording should be tailored to the program’s goals and
When I come to [program], I feel physically safe.
When I come to [program], I feel emotionally safe.
I trust the people who work here at [program].
[Program] provides me good information about what to expect from its staff and services.
I trust that people here at [program] will do what they say they are going to do, when they say
they are going to do it.
The people who work here at [program] act in a respectful and professional way toward me.
[Program] offers me a lot of choices about the services I receive.
I have a great deal of control over the kinds of services I receive, including when, where, and by
whom the services are offered.
People here at [program] really listen to what I have to say about things.
At [program], the staff is willing to work with me (rather than doing things for me or to me).
When decisions about my services or recovery plan are made, I feel like I am a partner with the
staff, that they really listen to what I want to accomplish.
Consumers play a big role in deciding how things are done here at [program].
[Program] recognizes that I have strengths and skills as well as challenges and difficulties.
The staff here at [program] are very good at letting me know that they value me as a person.
The staff here at [program] help me learn new skills that are helpful in reaching my goals.
I feel stronger as a person because I have been coming to [program].
Trauma Screening Process
The staff explained to me why they asked about difficult experiences in my life (like violence
or abuse).
The staff are as sensitive as possible when they ask me about difficult or frightening
experiences I may have had.
I feel safe talking with staff here about my experiences with violence or abuse.
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This document was prepared by: Roger D. Fallot, Ph.D. and Maxine Harris, Ph.D.
Community Connections
October, 2002; May, 2003; March, 2004; February, 2005;
March, 2006; April, 2009; July, 2009
For further information, please contact:
Roger D. Fallot, Ph.D.
Director of Research and Evaluation
202.608.4796 (voice)
202.608.4286 (fax)
Rebecca Wolfson Berley, MSW
Director of Trauma Education
202.608.4735 (voice)
202.608.4286 (fax)
Community Connections
801 Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E.
Suite 201
Washington, DC 20003
Harris, M. and Fallot, R. (Eds.) (2001). Using Trauma Theory to Design Service Systems. New
Directions for Mental Health Services. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
The developers of this approach would like to acknowledge the assistance in expanding and
enriching this protocol of the many individuals and programs that have participated in Creating
Cultures of Trauma-Informed Care trainings and consultations.
... Whereas various models that employ core principles of TIC exist, all emphasize survivors' safety, validation, resilience, and the need for autonomy and choice (Fallot & Harris, 2009). This framework includes four key provider assumptions (i.e., realization about trauma, recognize signs of trauma, responds through trauma principles, and resist re-traumatization). ...
... Still, its use with BTW who experience GBV has largely been ignored despite evidence that BTW is disproportionately impacted by GBV. The framework below combines six principles of TIC including safety, trustworthiness, collaboration, voice and choice, empowerment (Fallot & Harris, 2009), and attention to cultural, historical, and gender issues (SAMHSA, 2014). ...
... A trauma-informed approach is grounded in a set of assumptions (Box 1) and guided by several main principles (Box 2), which are embedded in an organisational culture (Fallot andHarris 2009, SAMHSA 2014 ...
It is likely that nurses across all disciplines will have contact with people who have experienced trauma and adverse childhood experiences, and nurses themselves may have had such experiences. Therefore, all nurses should have at least a working knowledge of trauma and its effects. Nurse educators are in an optimal position to raise awareness of the prevalence and effects of trauma and to model the principles that underpin trauma-informed approaches. This article provides an introduction to trauma and trauma-informed approaches in the context of preregistration nurse education. The authors explore practical ways in which nurse educators can begin to integrate a trauma-informed approach into curricula, and suggest that doing so could enhance nursing students’ well-being and their ability to provide high-quality patient care.
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Finally, after many years of resistance, the majority accepts the scientific evidence that we live in what Paul Crutzen, Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, defined as the Anthropocene Era, because humanity has left a major impact on not just the planet but all life forms. (Crutzen and Stoermer, 2000). Nowadays, with the rising frequency and magnitude of negative impacts that we bring upon ourselves by the way we act, the general public is becoming more and more aware of the rising threats we create for ourselves and the whole planet (UNESCO, 2021). Like in any other form of addiction, many humans tend to defend themselves by becoming aware of their self-destructive behaviors, tricking and soothing themselves by ignoring the mounting man-made threats and engaging in cognitive dissonance to avoid anxiety-inducing awareness. The exponential growth of the human population and its consumption patterns has resulted in such dramatic and exorbitant costs to the environment. Not only have our current lifestyles negatively impacted our planet’s ecosystems, but a growing number of scientists have warned us that we are rapidly reaching a tipping point where mitigation and/or reversal of trends is no longer possible (IPCC, 2014). If we do not act promptly and effectively, we will face not just the consequences but existential threats that threaten the survival of planet Earth’s self-proclaimed intelligent species.
Technical Report
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NHS Education for Scotland (NES) was commissioned to develop ‘Transforming Psychological Trauma: A Knowledge and Skills Framework for the Scottish Workforce' as part of the Scottish Government's commitment to developing a National Trauma Training Strategy as outlined in the Survivor Scotland Strategic Outcomes and Priorities (2015–2017) publication. The framework is aspirational and future‑focused. It lays out the essential and core knowledge and skills needed by all tiers of the Scottish workforce to ensure that the needs of children and adults who are affected by trauma are recognised, understood and responded to in a way which recognises individual strengths, acknowledges rights and ensures timely access to effective care, support and interventions for those who need it. The framework also has an essential focus on staff well‑being. The framework is designed to support managers and supervisors to recognise the learning and development needs of staff in the workplace and trainers to develop training to meet these learning needs.
Finding purpose, meaning, and personal identity can be a long-term challenge for people who have experienced psychosis. This chapter outlines how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT; Hayes et al., Acceptance and commitment therapy: the process and practice of mindful change. Guilford Press, 2012) has been developed to support the personal recovery of people with psychosis. ACT is a contextual, third-wave cognitive behavioural therapy that presents a broad model for supporting the wellbeing, functioning, and quality of life for people across a diverse range of situations and experiences of problems. This chapter provides the reader with an understanding of how ACT has been adapted for the needs of people with psychosis, including the key processes and goals of the intervention, modifications made to tailor techniques and language, and the formats that have been subject to empirical research thus far. This chapter also includes application of these principles through three case studies.KeywordsACTPsychosisRecoveryValuesMindfulnessThird-wave
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This paper shares our experiences providing professional development to secondary mathematics teachers in a school district looking for ways to meet the needs of their increasingly diverse student population. Our professional development focused on building teacher language awareness by addressing the language domains that Lindahl (2019) outlines as the teacher domain, user domain, and analyst domain. Further explanation of what each domain entails will be discussed and recommendations on how to engage teachers within these domains are shared.
Background In Physical Education (PE), trauma may manifest in a range of different actions/behaviours (e.g. small fouls escalating into physical conflict, students refusing to be part of a team, and struggling to adhere to the rules of the game). Without knowledge of the effects of trauma, teachers often defer to punitive responses, which exacerbate rather than mediate the needs of trauma-affected youth. It is therefore critical that prospective physical educators can enact trauma-aware practices to better support their learning and development. Purpose The aim of this novel paper was to reflect on the principles underpinning trauma-aware pedagogies and, from this, co-create tangible strategies that could be employed by future PE teachers to better support all students, but especially those who have experienced trauma. Methods We worked with three distinct groups of pre-service PE teachers (n = 22) from a range of different institutions, delivering a total of 12 hours of online workshops (2 × 2-hour sessions per group). The workshops were designed to support pre-service PE teachers in becoming trauma-aware and were grounded in the principles of trauma-aware pedagogies, namely: (1) ensuring safety and wellbeing, (2) establishing routines and structures, (3) developing and sustaining positive relationships that foster a sense of belonging, (4) facilitating and responding to youth voice and, (5) promoting strengths and self-belief. Through a range of academic content, individual activities and group tasks, participants were invited to consider, in conversation with us (as the workshop leaders) and each other, how these principles could be enacted in practice during various ‘PE moments’ (e.g. transitions into PE, getting changed, responding to incidents). Audio recordings of the workshops were transcribed, and along with copies of the online ‘chats’, were thematically analysed. Findings The workshops led to the co-creation of a host of tangible strategies – things that could be done to enact trauma-aware pedagogies in PE. While the strategies are noted here in relation to specific principles, we are not suggesting that these are in any way rigid categorisations. Rather, strategies are associated with principles reflecting how these were framed by pre-service teachers during the workshops. Each of the individual strategies is subsequently explored in relation to the relevant principle. For instance, strategies associated with the principle of ‘establishing routines and structures’ included: (1) being predictable, (2) ensuring consistent transitions within and between PE lessons, and (3) forewarning of changes. Conclusions This novel paper provides a range of strategies that could be used by both future and current teachers to enact trauma-aware pedagogies in PE. We argue that these strategies are reflective of ‘good pedagogy’ more broadly – and would benefit all students – but especially those who have been impacted by trauma. However, there remains a need to consider the context of the school, the students, and broader cultures when implementing these within practice.
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Considering the disproportionate number of people in the criminal justice system with trauma histories, in conjunction with the disproportionate number of people with mental illness who have experienced trauma, examining the trauma histories of mental health court (MHC) participants is essential. However, no studies to date have explicitly examined the trauma histories of this vulnerable population. Therefore, the present study aimed to describe the lifetime prevalence of traumatic events and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis among a sample of 163 participants within a Northeastern U.S. MHC. Gender differences were also explored. Overall, about 83% of MHC participants reported any lifetime trauma, with significantly higher rates among female participants (94.2%) as compared to male participants (78.4%). Approximately half of MHC participants reported experiencing childhood maltreatment, with women being significantly more likely to have experienced physical and sexual abuse during childhood than men. Further, women had higher rates of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. The percentage of women diagnosed with PTSD was about twice that of the men. These findings underscore the need for a trauma-informed and gender responsive approach to MHCs. Suggestions for MHCs to consider are offered, including trauma screening tools into MHC assessment procedures, cultivating a more trauma-informed culture by adapting key principles, and incorporating trauma-specific programming and therapies into their offerings.
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In the last decade or so, many educators, researchers, and national and local mathematics organizations have sought to create targeted programs, frameworks, and educational supports (for teachers and students alike) to address disparities in who we see as a "math person" and who has access to high quality mathematics. Too often, however, queer and transgender people are left out of these initiatives, frameworks, and conversations about equity and increased representation. Many times, the exclusion of queer and transgender identities from talks of equity, diversity, and inclusion comes from the ways in which queer and transgender identity is often rendered invisible, "divisive," or irrelevant in PK-12, and sometimes even PK-16, settings, particularly in mathematics. This article provides an argument as to why considering queer and transgender identity in mathematics teaching and learning is not only relevant, but essential. The article also provides considerations for making our schools and mathematics classes more queer and transgender inclusive.
Background: As trauma-informed care advances in the service delivery system for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, additional resources are needed to foster staff development. This article describes the development and pilot evaluation of a digital training on trauma-informed care among direct service providers (DSPs) in the disability service industry. Method: Following an AB design, a mixed methods approach was used to analyse the responses of 24 DSPs to an online survey at baseline and at follow-up. Results: The training was associated with increased staff knowledge in some domains and greater alignment with trauma-informed care. Staff expressed a strong likelihood of using trauma-informed care in practice and identified organisational assets and barriers to implementation. Conclusions: Digital trainings can facilitate staff development and the advancement of trauma-informed care. Although additional efforts are warranted, this study fills a gap in the literature regarding staff training and trauma-informed care.
Mental health practitioners are becoming increasingly aware that they are encountering a large number of men and women who are survivors of sexual and physical abuse. An understanding of trauma, its sequelae, and the impact that it has in shaping a consumer's response to subsequent experience is essential for providers working in the human services field, regardless of whether they are asked to deliver specific services intended to address the effects of abuse. This book identifies the essential elements necessary for a system to begin to integrate an understanding about trauma into its core service programs. The basic philosophy of trauma-informed practice is examined across several specific service components: assessment and screening, inpatient treatment, residential services, addictions programming, and case management. The modifications necessary to transform a current system into a trauma-informed system and the approaches that may become contraindicated are identified. The changing roles of consumers and providers in a trauma-informed system are also discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Community Connections
  • Roger D Fallot
  • Maxine Harris
Roger D. Fallot, Ph.D. and Maxine Harris, Ph.D. Community Connections October, 2002; May, 2003; March, 2004; February, 2005; March, 2006; April, 2009; July, 2009
MSW Director of Trauma Education 2024735 (voice) 202
  • Rebecca Wolfson Berley
Rebecca Wolfson Berley, MSW Director of Trauma Education 202.608.4735 (voice) 202.608.4286 (fax) Community Connections 801 Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E. Suite 201