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Trauma-informed mental healthcare in the UK: what is it and how can we further its development?



Purpose The purpose of this paper is to describe and explain trauma-informed approaches (TIAs) to mental health. It outlines evidence on the link between trauma and mental health, explains the principles of TIAs and their application in mental health and explores the extent to which TIAs are impacting in the UK. Design/methodology/approach The approach is a conceptual account of TIAs including a consideration of why they are important, what they are and how they can become more prevalent in the UK. This is supported by a narrative overview of literature on effectiveness and a scoping of the spread of TIAs in the UK. Findings There is strong and growing evidence of a link between trauma and mental health, as well as evidence that the current mental health system can retraumatise trauma survivors. There is also emerging evidence that trauma-informed systems are effective and can benefit staff and trauma survivors. Whilst TIAs are spreading beyond the USA where they developed, they have made little impact in the UK. The reasons for this are explored and ways of overcoming barriers to implementation discussed. Originality/value This paper – authored by trauma survivors and staff – describes an innovative approach to mental health service provision that, it is argued, could have immense benefits for staff and service users alike.
Mental Health Review Journal
Trauma-informed mental healthcare in the UK: what is it and how can we further its development?
Angela Sweeney Sarah Clement Beth Filson Angela Kennedy
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To cite this document:
Angela Sweeney Sarah Clement Beth Filson Angela Kennedy , (2016),"Trauma-informed mental healthcare in the UK: what
is it and how can we further its development?", Mental Health Review Journal, Vol. 21 Iss 3 pp. 174 - 192
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Trauma-informed mental healthcare in the
UK: what is it and how can we further its
Angela Sweeney, Sarah Clement, Beth Filson and Angela Kennedy
The authorsaffiliations can be
found at the end of this article.
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to describe and explain trauma-informed approaches (TIAs) to
mental health. It outlines evidence on the link between trauma and mental health, explains the principles of
TIAs and their application in mental health and explores the extent to which TIAs are impacting in the UK.
Design/methodology/approach The approach is a conceptual account of TIAs including a consideration
of why they are important, what they are and how they can become more prevalent in the UK. This is
supported by a narrative overview of literature on effectiveness and a scoping of the spread of TIAs in the UK.
Findings There is strong and growing evidence of a link between trauma and mental health, as well
as evidence that the current mental health system can retraumatise trauma survivors. There is also
emerging evidence that trauma-informed systems are effective and can benefit staff and trauma survivors.
Whilst TIAs are spreading beyond the USA where they developed, they have made little impact in the UK. The
reasons for this are explored and ways of overcoming barriers to implementation discussed.
Originality/value This paper authored by trauma survivors and staff describes an innovative approach to
mental health service provision that, it is argued, could have immense benefits for staff and service users alike.
Keywords Mental health services, Childhood trauma, TIA, TIC, Trauma survivors, Trauma-informed
Paper type Conceptual paper
It is known that many people in contact with mental health services have experienced physical or
sexual trauma (Mauritz et al., 2013), that there is a strong link between childhood trauma and
adult mental distress (Bentall et al., 2014), and that experiences of marginalisation, poverty,
racism and violence are correlated with poor mental health (Paradies, 2006). This has led to a call
for services to acknowledge psychological and social factors in the development of extreme
mental distress (Read et al., 2009). The hope is that such models would minimise the risk that
people presenting to services have their symptoms disconnected from the context of their lives.
In this paper, we will describe the concept of trauma-informed approaches (TIAs) which were
developed in North America but have relatively few published models from public services across
Europe. TIAs are based on the understanding that most people in contact with human services
have experienced trauma, and this understanding needs to permeate service relationships and
delivery (Harris and Fallot, 2001). We begin by examining the theoretical basis for TIAs including
the link between trauma and mental distress and institutional retraumatisation. We will argue for a
more systematic transformation of mental health services that acknowledges the role of trauma
in peoples lives and consequently reconceptualises relationships between survivors (people
who have experienced trauma and mental distress and who may use mental health services) and
Received 30 January 2015
Revised 11 June 2015
7 April 2016
Accepted 1 June 2016
© Angela Sweeney, Sarah Clement,
Beth Filson and Angela Kennedy.
Published by Emerald Group
Publishing Limited. This article is
published under the Creative
Commons Attribution
(CC BY 3.0) licence. Anyone may
reproduce, distribute, translate and
create derivative works of this article
(for both commercial and
non-commercial purposes), subject
to full attribution to the original
publication and authors. The full
terms of this licence may be seen at
Angela Sweeney is funded by a
National Institute for Health
Research Post-Doctoral Fellowship.
This paper presents independent
research partially funded by the
National Institute for Health
Research (NIHR). The views
expressed are those of the authors
and not necessarily those of the
NHS, the NIHR or the Department
of Health.
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service providers. Finally, we present a narrative overview of literature on effectiveness of TIAs,
map current TIA activity, explore why TIAs have not impacted on mainstream UK practice and
discuss what might be needed to bring TIAs to the UK.
Defining trauma
Definitions of trauma vary, but broadly, trauma refers to events or circumstances that are
experienced as harmful or life-threatening and that have lasting impacts on mental, physical,
emotional and/or social well-being (SAMHSA, 2014). Trauma can be a single event or multiple
events compounded over time. The concept of trauma encompasses experiences of
interpersonal violence, such as rape or domestic violence. Complex childhood and
developmental traumas include community violence (e.g. bullying, gang culture, sexual assault,
homicide, war), abuse, neglect, abandonment and family separation (Van der Kolk, 2005; Lesser understood forms of trauma include
social trauma, such as inequality, marginalisation, racism and poverty, and historical trauma, the
trauma legacy of violence having been committed against entire groups, including slavery,
genocide and the Holocaust (Blanch et al., 2012). Lenore Terr (1991) has conceptualised two
basic types of childhood trauma: Type I trauma involves witnessing or experiencing a single event
such as a serious accident or rape. Type II trauma results from repeated exposure to extreme
external events, such as ongoing sexual abuse.
Prevalence of trauma
The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study investigated the association between childhood
trauma and adult health in over 17,000 people (predominantly white, middle class Americans; Childhood trauma was common:
30 per cent of respondents reported substance use in their household; 27 per cent reported physical
abuse; 25 per cent reported sexual abuse; 13 per cent reported emotional abuse; 17 per cent
reported emotional neglect; 9 per cent reported physical neglect; and 14 per cent reported seeing
their mother treated violently (
Research has demonstrated that people in contact with the mental health system have
experienced higher rates of interpersonal violence than the general population. A systematic review
estimated that half of those in the mental health system had experienced physical abuse (range
25-72 per cent) and more than one-third had experienced sexual abuse (range 24-49 per cent) in
childhood or adulthood, significantly higher than in the general population (Mauritz et al., 2013).
Similarly, survey researchhas found that people using mental health services are substantially more
likely to have experienced domestic and sexual violence in the previous year compared to the
general population (27 per cent of women and 13 per cent of men had experienced domestic
violence compared to 9 and 5 per cent, respectively, of the general population; 10 per cent of
women had experienced sexual violence compared to 2 per cent of the general population;
Khalifeh et al., 2015).
The link between trauma and mental health
Over the last decade, research evidence has increasingly supported the notionthat trauma is linked
to adult psychosis and a wide range of other forms of mental distress (e.g. Bentall et al.,2014;
Fisher et al., 2010; Kessler et al., 2010; Paradies, 2006; Varese et al., 2012). The ACE study found
that the more adverse life events people experience prior to the age of 18, the greater the impact on
health and well-being over the lifespan, including poor mental health, severe physical health
problems, sexual and reproductive health issues, engaging in health-risk activities and premature
death (Anda et al., 2010). Similarly, Shevlin et al. (2008) found that experiencing two or more trauma
types significantly increased the likelihood of experiencing psychosis. Dillon et al. (2012) report
evidence of a dose-dependent relationship between the severity, frequency and range of adverse
experiences and subsequent impact on mental health. Interestingly, research has also
demonstrated that the general public share the notion that trauma and adverse life events play a
causal role in mental health difficulties (e.g. Read et al., 2013; Angermeyer and Dietrich, 2006).
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Contemporary neuroscience is exploring the link between childhood trauma and neurological
development. This research is informing TIAs which typically adopt a whole systems view of
people and their environments, including an understanding of the role and impact of neurological
damage. For instance, research has demonstrated that trauma has an impact on developing
brains in childhood which can go on to affect the structure and function of adult brains (Perry
1995, 2005). This has led to the development of a traumagenic neurodevelopmental
understanding of the link between childhood adversity and adult psychosis, which now has a
large body of supporting evidence (Read et al., 2014). The neurological damage caused by
trauma suggests that survivors can be primedto respond to current situations that replicate the
experience of loss of power, choice, control and safety in ways that may appear extreme, or even
abnormal, when a history of past adverse events is not taken into account. However, research
has also indicated the healing potential of current relationships (Perry, 2005). To find out more
see, for example, Van der Kolk (2005), Read et al. (2014) and Dillon et al. (2012).
Research has also demonstrated that traumatic events are more frequently experienced by people in
low-socioeconomic groups and from minority ethnic communities (e.g. Hatch and Dohrenwend,
2007). It has further been argued that poverty is the most powerful predictor of mental distress
because it predicts so many other causes (Read, 2010). Moreover, black people are over-represented
in the mental health system, are more likely to experience negative or adversarial pathways to care, to
be diagnosed with psychotic disorders and to receive compulsory treatment (e.g. Mohan et al., 2006;
Morgan et al., 2004). Yet, there is little discussion of the potential role of historical and cultural trauma in
this. Indeed, social trauma, including poverty, racism and urbanicity, is so prevalent it is often not
recognised as integral to poor mental health by clinicians or those experiencing it.
Notably, people in contact with mental health services who have been sexually or physically
abused in childhood typically have longer and more frequent hospital admissions, are prescribed
more medication, are more likely to self-harm and are more likely to attempt to kill themselves
than people without experiences of childhood abuse (Read et al., 2007).
Retraumatisation in the mental health system
Retraumatisation essentially means to be traumatised again. It occurs when a person
experiences something in the present that is reminiscent of a past traumatic event. This current
event or trigger often evokes the same emotional and physiological responses associated with
the original event. People are not always aware that their current distress is rooted in past events,
nor do all people relive the original event in a logical, coherent manner (Durant, 2011).
The mental health system can retraumatise survivors through its fundamental operating principles of
coercion and control (Bloom and Farragher, 2010). Retraumatisation includes overt acts, such as
restraining and forcibly medicatingarapevictim,aswellaslesspalpable retraumatisation, such
as pressure to accept medication which mimics prior experiences of powerlessness. Empirical
research indicates that traumatic experiences (e.g. physical assault, seclusion, restraint) are widespread
in inpatient settings (Freuh et al., 2005). Mental health services can also contribute to historical and
cultural trauma by recasting responses to racism as individual pathology (Jackson, 2003), recasting
womens attempts to resist domestic control as hysteria (St-Amand and LeBlanc, 2013) and recasting
homosexuality as sexual deviance in need of corrective treatment (Friedman, 2014).
Jennings believes that whilst retraumatisation can be unintentional and unanticipated, it will
remain whilst mental health systems fails to acknowledge the role of trauma in peoples lives and
their consequent need for safety, mutuality, collaboration and empowerment (www. Current services and supports that do not take these impacts into
account may inadvertently retraumatise, further reinforcing survivorsneeds for coping strategies
such as illicit drug use or self-harm.
The impact of retraumatising systems on staff
The policies, procedures and practices that staff may be required to perform in trauma-
organised systems(Bloom and Farragher, 2010) can conflict with personal and ethical codes of
conduct. For example, the use of seclusion and restraint as an institutional practice erodes the
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very meaning of compassion and care, the primary reasons most staff enter their chosen field.
Staff who experience conflicts between job duties and their moral code are under chronic stress
for which they must learn to cope and adapt. Those coping strategies may include shutting off
the ability to empathise, and viewing people receiving services as otherthereby disqualifying
their humanity and basic human rights. Pessimism rather than enthusiasm and hope may
buffer staff from their own feelings of helplessness (Chambers et al., 2014).
Staff may also engage in power overrelationships when organisations place a higher priority on
risk management than human relationships. A nurse who is required to perform a personal search
may become frustrated by a service users resistance, failing to recognise that she/he is a
stranger who is placing hands on the body of another who may be a rape survivor. Organisational
cultures may become corrupted, paving the way to power over relationships that reinforce
peoples helplessness and hopelessness. In these corrupted cultures, the basic values of the
organisation are no longer driving practice; instead, the needs of service users become
secondary to the needs of staff, and restraint and coercion may be used widely even when less
restrictive options are available. This and other working practices and routines (such as rigid
professional hierarchies and a lack of supervision) can dehumanise both staff and service users
and lead to human rights violations (for an account of corrupted cultures and the impact on
coercion see, Paterson et al., 2013; Wardhaugh and Wilding, 1993). The National Institute for
Clinical Excellence (NICE) has expressed frustration at first resort to coercive practices even
where other approaches are indicated (NICE, 2005). The impact of trauma-organised services on
workers is analogous to the impact of trauma on survivors it reshapes and re-constructs
self-identity and can shatter individual meaning and purpose (Knight, 2015).
The principles of TIAs
The development of TIA can be traced to the USA and to Harris and Fallots (2001) seminal text,
Using Trauma Theory to Design Service Systems. Bloom (2013), also from the USA, who
developed the Sanctuary Model outlines the development of TIA from the era of moral treatment,
through social psychiatry and finally the concept of the Therapeutic Community (Bloom and
Norton, 2004) which includes developments in the UK. TIAs can be defined as a system
development model that is grounded in and directed by a complete understanding of how trauma
exposure affects service users neurological, biological, psychological and social development
(Paterson, 2014). Consequently, TIAs are informed by neuroscience, psychology and social
science as well as attachment and trauma theories, and give central prominence to the complex
and pervasive impact trauma has on a persons worldview and interrelationships.
TIAs are applicable to all human services, including physical health, education and schools,
forensic, housing and social care (Schachter et al., 2008; Havig, 2008; Cole et al., 2013). In a
trauma-informed service, it is assumed that people have experienced trauma and may
consequently find it difficult to develop trusting relationships with providers and feel safe within
services. Accordingly, services are structured, organised and delivered in ways that engender
safety and trust and do not retraumatise. Thus, trauma-informed services can be distinguished
from trauma-specific services which aim to treat the impacts of trauma using specific therapies
and other approaches. The key principles underlying TIAs can be found in Table I, adapted from
SAMHSA (2014), Elliot et al. (2005) and Bloom (2006).
Whilst it may seem that principles such as safety and collaboration define any good service for
any service user, Elliot et al. (2005) have argued that if these principles are not adhered to, trauma
survivors may be unable to use services. It is striking that these general principles have strong
resonance with the values that psychiatric survivors have historically called for, and underpin
much peer support practice (e.g. Mead and MacNeil, 2006).
What are the potential benefits of TIAs?
The potential benefits of TIAs to survivors are myriad, including hope, empowerment, support
that does not retraumatise and access to trauma-specific services. Moreover, the medicalisation
of human suffering has created a divide between people receiving services and those offering
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support; this divide can create tenuous bonds that are inadequate, at times, to protect the human
and civil rights of people viewed as other (Filson and Mead, 2016). But trauma is something that
many of us experience, and indeed, a small number of studies suggest that workers in human
services have a high prevalence of ACE scores (e.g. Esaki and Larkin, 2013). In recognising
trauma as a shared event, healing too becomes something we do together.
Because TIAs are premised on the understanding that most of the people who come into contact
with mental health services have been impacted by trauma, training, supervision and support for
staff are seen as essential. This attention to staff support has the potential to decrease burnout
and reduce staff turnover. For example, research suggests that supervisors who feel that their
organisation values them and cares about their well-being are more likely to be supportive
towards the people they are responsible for (Shanock and Eisenberger, 2006).
There are complex interactions between service users, practitioners and organisations that can
come to mirror one another through parallel processes(Bloom, 2006). Trauma survivorslives
may be organised around the trauma experience, just as systems can come to be organised
around models that are inadequate for responding to survivors. This means that, for example, in
trauma-organised systems, survivors may feel and be unsafe, leading to aggression towards
staff. Experiencing aggression from survivors may cause staff to become wary and hostile, with
organisations responding with greater punitive and risk-averse measures. This increases
survivorssense of unsafety and aggression. Becoming trauma-informed has the potential to
break these negative parallel processes and create positive interactions.
Trauma carries a heavy economic cost. Dolezal et al. (2009) have reviewed US research evidence
on the economic impacts of violence and abuse and estimate a cost of between 17 and
37.5 per cent of the total spend on healthcare. They believe that a compassionate healthcare
system that understands the impacts of violence and abuse and offers appropriate support may
avoid many of these costs. In the UK, the Department of Health (DH) has estimated that:
Costs include the costs of providing public services for victims, the lost economic output of women
and the human and emotional costs of violence for victims. An indicative figure for the minimum cost of
violence against women and children is £36.7bn (DH, 2011).
Table I The key principles of trauma-informed approaches
1. Recognition Recognise the prevalence, signs and impacts of trauma. This is sometimes referred to as having a trauma lens.
This should include routine enquiry about trauma, sensitively asked and appropriately timed. For individual
survivors, recognition can create feelings of validation, safety and hope
2. Resist retraumatisation Understand that operational practices, power differentials between staff and survivors, and many other
features of psychiatric care can retraumatise survivors (and staff). Take steps to eliminate retraumatisation
3. Cultural, historical and
gender contexts
Acknowledge community-specific trauma and its impacts. Ensure services are culturally and gender
appropriate. Recognise the impact of intersectionalities, and the healing potential of communities and
4. Trustworthiness and
Services should ensure decisions taken (organisational and individual) are open and transparent, with the aim
of building trust. This is essential to building relationships with trauma survivors who may have experienced
secrecy and betrayal
5. Collaboration and mutuality Understand the inherent power imbalance between staff and survivors, and ensure that relationships are based
on mutuality, respect, trust, connection and hope. These are critical because abuse of power is typically at the
heart of trauma experiences, often leading to feelings of disconnection and hopelessness, and because it is
through relationships that healing can occur
6. Empowerment, choice and
Adopt strengths based approaches, with survivors supported to take control of their lives and develop self-
advocacy. This is vital as trauma experiences are often characterised by a lack of control with long-term
feelings of disempowerment
7. Safety Trauma engenders feelings of danger. Give priority to ensuring that everyone within a service feels, and is,
emotionally and physically safe. This includes the feelings of safety engendered through choice and control,
and cultural and gender awareness. Environments must be physically, psychologically, socially, morally and
culturally safe
8. Survivor partnerships Understand that peer support and the coproduction of services are integral to trauma-informed organisations.
This is because the relationships involved in peer support and coproduction are based on mutuality and
9. Pathways to trauma-specific
Survivors should be supported to access appropriate trauma-specific care, where this is desired. Such
services should be provided by mental health services and be well resourced
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There is also some evidence that a reduction in seclusion and restraint has large cost
savings (e.g. a 92 per cent reduction in the costs linked to restraint, LeBel and
Goldstein, 2006).
Applying trauma-informed principles to mental health
Trauma-informed mental health services are strengths based: they reframe complex behaviour in
terms of its function in helping survival and as a response to situational or relational triggers.
Reframing refers to looking at, presenting, and thinking about a phenomenon in a new and
different way, and replaces traditional individual/medical model approaches to madness
and distress with a social perspective, somewhat akin to the Social Model of Disability (Wilson
and Beresford, 2002). Reframing behaviour as meaningful allows providers to address underlying
needs and utilise less intrusive strategies. We have fictionalised a trauma-informed response to a
woman who self-harms in Box 1.
In a trauma-informed mental health service, all staff clinical and non-clinical understand the
impact of trauma on a persons ability to survive in the present moment. Crucially, this entails a
shift from thinking what is wrong with youto what happened to you(Harris and Fallot, 2001).
The critical roles of racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, poverty and their intersectionalities are
recognised. Survivors in crisis are not viewed as manipulative, attention-seeking or destructive,
but as trying to cope in the present moment using any available resource.
Providers do not fear asking about trauma, yet do so in ways that are respectful of potential
retraumatisation; the power of telling ones story but also the impotency of telling it where nothing
changes (Filson, 2011); the need to move at the survivors pace; the need to truly listen; and the
need for post-disclosure support. Survivors are forewarned about trauma questions, and can
choose not to answer. Trauma information is integrated into treatment plans so that people can
be referred to trauma-specific services (if wanted) (see Read et al., 2007 for a full account of why,
when and how to ask about abuse).
The basic safety of environments is prioritised physical, psychological, social and moral with
organisations making a commitment to non-violence (Bloom, 2006). Staff receive support to help
them focus on trauma, and steps are taken to build a sense of community and shared
responsibility between staff and survivors (Bloom, 2006). This means that services prioritise
building trusting, mutual relationships between staff and survivors. When relationships are
prioritised, policies and procedures (such as time limited sessions with a therapist) can be
re-evaluated in light of whether or not they support TIAs.
TIAs in mental health aim to reduce or eradicate coercion and control, including medication as
restraint, verbal coercion, threats of enforced detention, withholding information, restrictive
risk-aversive practices, disrespectful and infantilising interactions and Community Treatment Orders
(see, for instance OHagan, 2003). Clinicians understand the revictimisation that power over
relationships reinforce. Training and supervision provide staff with the tools to attend to potential
relational and situational triggers and to use trust-based, collaborative relationships to support people.
Box 1. Jenny
Jenny has had numerous hospital admissions over four years, usually through self-harming events,
including swallowing foreign objects and cutting her arms. Previously, some staff described Jenny as
attention-seekingand manipulative, and responded by trying to control or stop the behaviour.
This included ignoring Jenny, giving PRN medication or forcibly medicating her. This has changed since
the organisation began training its staff on trauma and trauma-informed approaches. Now, when Jenny
tells staff she wants to hurt herself, staff respond to Jennys pain, recognising that past strategies added to
Jennys sense of powerlessness. While Jennys safety is no less important, validating Jennys pain and her
attempt to cope with it, along with using harm reduction strategies around her self-injury, has greatly
helped her. Jenny is now using art to bring voice to her experiences, and her treatment team have referred
Jenny to a therapist who will work with her on the issues arising from her experiences of abuse.
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Survivors often encounter numerous human services across their lives. To be trauma-informed,
each service within and beyond the local mental health system should operate according to TIA
principles. This includes primary care, A&E, talking therapies, mental health teams, crisis care, the
police, social services and voluntary sector services (such as trauma-specific service providers).
What is the evidence on the effectiveness of TIAs?
To provide an overview of the current state of evidence on the effectiveness of TIAs in mental
health we searched nine electronic databases (Medline, Embase, PsycInfo, CINAHL, Cochrane
Library, Sociologicial Abstracts, Social Policy and Practice, Global Health and Maternity and
Infant Care) using the title-word search trauma and informed. Searches were from the earliest
date of each database to August 2014 (searches run on 5 August 2014). This yielded 129 unique
publications. One author (SC) assessed the items against the following inclusion criteria:
participants adults and/or youth in receipt of mental health services; intervention any form of
trauma-informed care; control (any or none); outcomes any, including those relating to staff as
well as service users; and study design any design providing evidence on effectiveness,
including qualitative evaluation studies.
Eight studies (Azeem et al., 2011; Chandler, 2008; Domino et al., 2006; Gatz et al., 2007;
Greenwald et al., 2012; Messina et al., 2014; Morrissey et al., 2005; Weissbecker and Clark,
2007) met the inclusion criteria. The findings are presented in Table II.
All studies were conducted in the USA, and four were evaluations of Women and Co-Occurring
Disorders services. Four studies were controlled pre-post-studies, two were pre-post-studies
and one was a qualitative study. Beneficial effects noted in these studies included reduction in
seclusion, reduced post-traumatic stress symptoms and general mental health symptoms,
increased coping skills, improved physical health, greater treatment retention and shorter
inpatient stays (see Table II, main findings). Other outcomes did not change such as substance
misuse, emergency room use, imprisonment and shelter use.
Several of the studies were large, multi-site and quasi-experimental. The evidence-base is limited,
however, by the relatively small number of studies, restricted to one country, with half the studies
evaluating one particular TIA model. We did not locate any randomised controlled trials of
trauma-informed mental healthcare. The findings cannot necessarily be generalised beyond the
USA where the evidence is located. Also, as noted by Greenwald et al. (2012), the inclusion of
numerous interventions makes it difficult to precisely identify the causes of the improvement.
Integrating trauma-specific services within a broader trauma-informed service is advocated from
a theoretical and service perspective; therefore, as is the case with complex interventions,
research may not be able to pinpoint the key active ingredients.
This narrative overview of the evidence has limitations. It is not a systematic review as to conduct
one was beyond the scope and intention of this paper. Consequently, although the number of
bibliographic databases searched was large, the search strategy was basic, we did not search
the grey literature or use reference checking or consultation with experts, and the selection of
studies was undertaken by one investigator. A future systematic review on the effectiveness of
trauma-informed care generally or in a mental health context would be welcome and illuminating.
Future research will hopefully provide a fuller picture of what TIAs are able to achieve. Given the
sound theoretical and ethical underpinnings of TIAs and the extensive developmental work
undertaken, coupled with the current promising evidence to date, there is certainly a strong case
for the wider implementation and evaluation of TIAs.
TIAs in the UK
The concept of TIAs originated in the USA and in 2005 the United States Federal Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) established a National Centre for
Trauma-Informed Care. Many human service providers, including those in mental health, are now
familiar with the concept of TIAs. However, the US mental health system remains heavily
biomedical and despite conceptual familiarity, implementation of TIAs across sectors is patchy
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(Cheryl Sharp, Senior Advisor for Trauma-Informed Services, National Council for Behavioural
Health, USA, personal communication). In terms of strategies and implementation, the
International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership has produced a brief report on key national
and regional activities in TIAs across nations involved with the IIMHL as part of their Make it so
series (IIMHL, 2012). As the aim of this series is to rapidly share information, it is likely that some
key activities have been missed. Notwithstanding this caveat, countries where trauma-informed
practices were identified were the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Nascent strategies
and practices were described for Scotland and Ireland with nothing noted for England. The USA
was described as leading the world in TIAs, and as the only nation to have national policy relating
to trauma. Specifically, in 2011-2014 the eight strategic objectives of the SAMHSA included
Table II Narrative review of evidence on trauma-informed mental health care: study characteristics and findings
Study Study design Participants and setting Intervention Main findings
Azeem et al.
Pre-post-study 458 youth admitted to a
child and adolescent
psychiatric hospital, USA
Training staff in six core strategies that
are based on trauma-informed care
In the first six months of study, the
number of seclusions/restraints
episodes were 93 (73 seclusions/20
restraints), involving 22 children and
adolescents. In final six months of
study following the training
programme, there were 31 episodes
(six seclusions/25 restraints) involving
11 children and adolescents
interview study,
content analysis
Ten staff in an inpatient
mental health unit, USA
Introduction of a trauma-informed
Themes identified included: changing
perspective, developing collaborative
relationships, implementing safety
measures and prescribing educational
resources, which the authors
concluded indicated significant cultural
Domino et al.
1,023 women with
co-occurring mental health
and substance abuse
problems with histories of
interpersonal violence, USA
Trauma-informed outpatient group
counselling, in the context of
integrated substance abuse and
mental health services
Intervention group women used the
internal services provided. The
intervention did not have strong effects
on patterns of service use external to
the intervention, such as emergency
room, jail and shelter use
Gatz et al.
Controlled pre-
313 women with co-
occurring mental health and
substance use disorders
and histories of trauma,
Seeking safety, a trauma-specific
group treatment focusing on safety
and coping skills, in the context of
integrated substance abuse and
mental health services
Intervention women showed
significantly better treatment retention
over three months and greater
improvement on post-traumatic stress
symptoms and coping skills
et al. (2012)
Pre-post-study 53 youth in a residential
treatment facility, USA
Training in the Fairy Tale model of
trauma-informed treatment
Compared to the year prior to training,
in the year of the training the average
improvement in presenting problems
was increased by 34 per cent, time to
discharge was reduced by 39 per cent,
and rate of discharge to lower level of
care was doubled
Messina et al.
277 women offenders, USA Gender-responsive treatment Significant reduction in PTSD
et al. (2005)
3,034 women with
co-occurring mental health
and substance use
disorders in nine outpatient
sites, USA
Comprehensive, integrated, trauma-
informed and consumer-involved
approach to treatment
For substance use outcomes, no
effect was found. The meta-analysis
demonstrated small but statistically
significant overall improvement in
womens trauma and mental health
symptoms in the intervention relative to
the usual-care comparison condition
and Clark
2,189 women with
co-occurring disorders and
histories of violence
Comprehensive, integrated, trauma-
informed and consumer-involved
approach to treatment
Improved physical health outcomes
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trauma and justice. This objective aimed to reduce the impacts of violence and trauma by
integrating TIAs throughout health, behavioural health and related systems.
Of the 129 academic publications with traumaand informedin the title found when we conducted
our overview of the evidence of effectiveness, the vast majority of publications (86 per cent) were from
the USA. Five other countries, including the UK, had a small amount of academic activity. The UK
work comprised two discussion papers (Rose et al., 2012; Ardino, 2014), a book (Taylor, 2012) and
two reviews (Harragan, 2013; Steckley, 2013) of a non-UK-authored book on TIA. The focus was
typically on residential treatment or mental health services for children and adolescents, with two
general mental health papers (Ardino, 2014; Rose et al., 2012).
Academic publication rates may have little bearing on the provision of services, therefore to gain a
wider perspective on the current UK situation, we conducted a Google search on UK pdf
documents with trauma-informedin the title. This yielded information about:
a trauma-informed foster care service in North Wales, Chester and the Wirral (www.newfocas.;
a guide to trauma-informed resettlement for people leaving youth custody (www.
workshops led by visiting North American experts (
conferences, including two on mental health (
supportingpeople/); and
training with a trauma-informed approach (;;;
One of us, (AK), has played a key role in introducing TIAs to Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS
Foundation Trust, and describes her experiences in Box 2.
It is clear that TIAs are beginning to reach the UK, although often in settings beyond mental
health. However, the two conferences on trauma-informed mental healthcare in 2014 with
speakers from psychology, mental health nursing, psychiatry and the survivor movement
indicate the beginnings of a sea-change. Scotlands Mental Health Strategy 2012-2015
includes psychological trauma as a key priority (Scottish Government, 2012). The strategy
states that General Services should be Trauma Aware, and aims to improve recognition and
awareness of trauma in Primary Care and Mental Health Services, encourage staff to make
appropriate referrals for trauma survivors, and roll out trauma training. Although TIAs are not
named, this is nevertheless a welcome development.
Similarly, the National Mental Health Development Unit (2010) and DH (2011) have
released strategy documents on gender sensitive services that include trauma awareness.
The DH published recommendations regarding routine enquiry of abuse in mental health
settings over a decade ago (DH, 2003) and a programme of work was undertaken to train staff,
which demonstrated changes in skill (McNeish and Scott, 2008). This focused on changing the
emphasis from What is wrong with this person?to What has happened to this person?.
Asking the basic question: Have you ever experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse at
any time in your life?has now become mandatory for UK services. However, current evidence
that staff do this in practice is scant and this suggests that good practice that goes
beyond this question is not widespread (Hepworth and McGowan, 2013; Brooker et al., 2016).
One significant change that may prompt responses from services is the inclusion of trauma in
some NICE guidelines, for example, the recently updated guidance for the management of
schizophrenia (NICE, 2014). Some early intervention services for psychosis, in particular,
are attempting to be more trauma-informed. Toner et al. (2013) showed that having
a formulation-driven approach to understanding psychosis was more important in creating
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staff that were empowered to address trauma than having the ability to enquire about it.
There is something very important about the model of mental health that staff bring with
them to the role.
What are the barriers to implementing TIAs in the UK?
We have identified a number of potential explanations for the slow implementation of TIAs in the
UK, although our list is not exhaustive. Many of these implementation barriers are applicable to
settings beyond the UK. First, despite compelling evidence, there remains strong resistance to
the notion that trauma and childhood abuse plays a causal role in psychosis and mental distress.
Historically, such claims have been seen as family blaming, and have been vehemently
opposed, e.g. historic opposition to Freud and Laing. Instead there is a focus on the biological
basis of mental distress, with genes and neurology seen as causal and trauma relegated to a
trigger at best (Moskowitz, 2011). Thus, mental distress is understood as a scientific, medical and
pharmacological problem, rather than a human, familial or social issue.
Second, Western societies have strongly resisted notions of historical and cultural violence and
their consequent trauma legacies. Jackson (2003), an African American survivor and therapist,
has produced a powerful research account of scientific racism, slavery and colonialism and the
impact this has had on survivors generationally and today. Focussing on the social and systemic
causes of trauma places practitioners in opposition to powerful groups and consequently is often
avoided (Coles, 2014).
Third, Coles (2014) has described horroras a barrier to practitioners embracing notions of
trauma: to stand as witness to the extent and horror of peoples accounts of pain and suffering is
to encounter and experience fear, despair, loss and rage.
Fourth, UK public services face continuous change and upheaval, making many wary and weary
of new initiatives. Consequently, introducing new conceptualisations of care can be challenging,
and this is particularly acute with TIAs because the role and prevalence of trauma is disputed
(e.g. the DH and NICE focus on diagnostic categories, rarely referring to trauma). Compounding
this, UK austerity means that resources are scarcer and morale lower. This context makes it
harder to engage with new initiatives.
Box 2. Case study: introducing TIA to an NHS Trust
Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV) is a large mental health provider in the North
of England which serves a population of 1.6 million people and employs over 5,000 staff. TEWV is
embarking on a program to develop trauma-informed services throughout its adult division. Its TIA has
been to develop a pathway of care and to train staff to implement this pathway. Training is undertaken as
a team and it has been well received with staff reporting it relevant to their work and increasing their
confidence afterwards. The resource set incorporates a number of elements: it has a variety of
information leaflets for clients; resource links and summaries for staff; a treatment algorithm; service skills
matrix; good practice guidance for managing trauma disclosures; information on screening for
dissociation and how to manage it; a section on staff well-being; and a framework for understanding risk
issues. The pilot project on an acute adult mental health ward included all staff from senior medics to
health care assistants. They found that three quarters of the people admitted could directly link trauma
with their current difficulties. Totally, 80 per cent had substance misuse issues, and the same proportion
self-harmed. Totally, 40 per cent were experiencing some psychosis. Ward staff felt empowered to have
meaningful discussions about trauma and used this to inform formulation based care plans. They were
able to implement some core skills in grounding and emotion regulation, which resulted in a reduction in
the use of PRN medication. It was important that local trauma champions in each team facilitated
supervision, management and implementation of the guidance. Staff could also call on external complex
case consultation for trauma, which was evaluated as being extremely helpful. Follow-up training plans
were then developed to respond to specific areas of need as requested and so far this has been
dominated by dissociation. TEWV has promoted experts by experience to deliver much of this. Finally,
trauma specific supervision groups are supporting therapists to respond to issues of complex trauma.
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Fifth, TIAs are a relatively complex and involved approach to service provision, and are easily
confused with trauma-specific services. Muskett (2014) has described how mental health nurses
in Australia struggle to translate TIA principles into their everyday practice beyond reducing
seclusion and restraint.
Sixth, there have been a number of initiatives aimed at improving mental health services and
relationships between service providers and users. For example, in the UK, Star Wards aims to
support excellence on inpatient psychiatric wards (, Safewards aims
to reduce conflict and containment and increase safety on inpatient mental health wards (www., and Compassion in Practice centralises the six Cs of nursing and midwifery
(care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment). Whilst such
initiatives are compatible with TIA, they are nonetheless another way to conceptualise and
implement care for providers to grapple with.
Seventh, many UK mental health staff have no access to regular structured supervision, and this
is a serious barrier to the implementation of TIA. In our case study (Box 3) we cite trauma-specific
supervision groups as a way of supporting therapists to respond to issues of complex trauma.
Finally, once a concept starts to take hold it can gain momentum. Debate, training opportunities,
champions, mentors and networking all perpetuate thinking and practice. Our mapping work
suggests that despite evidence of increasing interest in TIAs in the UK, we have not yet achieved
the critical mass needed for frontline TIA implementation.
How can we bring TIAs to the UK?
Addressing each of the issues outlined above will go some way towards contributing to the
development of UK TIA practice. First and foremost, a paradigm shift in collective thinking about
Box 3. Case study: key factors in successfully implementing TIA
The experience gained by TEWV in implementing the Clinical Link Pathway for Trauma has generated
some insights. It has taken a lot of planning, patience and determination to keep it on the agenda in spite of
organisational changes, mergers and competing priorities. There are, however, a few key factors that have
facilitated the ambitious scope and success so far: first, it was important to sell the concept to senior
leaders in the organisation using language that connected with its change processes and aims. The TIA
was then sponsored by the medical director. TEWV uses Leanmethodology, which looks for ways to
reduce inefficiencies in its delivery of care. Unidentified traumawas demonstrated using local statistics and
service user stories as one way that a persons journey could stall, be misguided or be less than optimal.
The TIA neededto demonstrate how it fitted with the organisations key objectives both strategically and in
practise with individual clients. By engaging senior support, the approach has maintained high level
support in spite of competing demands. Second, it helped to use the methodology for system change that
the Trust already employed. TEWV uses pathwaysto describe the structures, management systems
and clinical decision making necessary to support the needs of a specific client group. Pathways aim to
deliver care which adds value to the clients health outcome. Most pathways are diagnostic. However, the
Trauma Informed Service pathway describes care for anyone showing the effects of trauma regardless of
their diagnosis. Third, change is facilitated when staff are empowered by it rather than burdened. This
pathway doesnot dictate what must be done nor isit strictly governed. The process of becoming trauma-
informed has become embedded when it is owned by staff and this has had to be gradual over time as
awareness deepened. It helped to have emphasis on flexibility of response, to enhance skills and
confidence, and to keep data collection to a minimum. Fourth, it helped the pathway lead to understand
theory relating to organisational functioning as well as individual trauma work and consider what leadership
behavioursothers would follow. Empathic engagement with other staff was needed to create alliances and
fit the pathway to their clinical needs. Staff needed to be shown the difference it could make to clients and
to their own work. They needed opportunity to develop skills, to embed the value of TIA into their own
motivational system and to see TIA as a group that they want to belong to.And finally, the personal voices
and experiences of service users have been vital in showing the way.
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the causes of mental distress is vital (Harris and Fallot, 2001). Practitioners must move
from asking what is wrong with youto what happened to you(Harris and Fallot, 2001).
In other words, practitioners must understand the critical and primary role of trauma and
fundamentally change their practice as a result. Without this, TIAs are at high risk of co-optation
(as has arguably occurred with the concepts of recovery and peer support), meaning
that mainstream implementation could be tokenistic, fragmentary and divorced from TIAs
core principles.
Although individual practitioners can engage with people in trauma-informed ways, this will be
inadequate without system-wide change as systems, as well as individual managers, can block
what is needed to effect change (Kotter and Cohen, 2003). Rose et al. (2012) assessed
DH documentation for its fit with TIA principles. They found that it is policy that trauma and
abuse is discussed and documented in all mental health assessments. The principles of TIA are
also consistent with policy advocating partnership working between survivors and providers,
such as choice and coproduction. However, further policies are needed so that services can
move away from force, coercion and risk-aversive practice and towards TIAs, with trusts
incentivised to implement change.
AK played a key role in introducing TIAs to her mental health trust, and Box 3 explores some of
the key factors that made this successful. As can be seen, it was particularly important to
demonstrate that TIAs fitted with and furthered key organisational objectives.
Alongside a paradigm shift, there must be discussion and acknowledgement of the critical roles of
historical and cultural violence, including ethnically and socio-demographically based differential
experiences within the mental health system (e.g. Morgan et al., 2004; McKenzie and Bhui, 2007).
We must combat the view that TIAs are utopian because survivors are dangerous and in need of
compulsion (e.g. Muskett, 2014). We must recognise the cycle of crisis that a focus on risk
management perpetuates as people struggle for personal agency, choice and control over their
lives (Samele et al., 2007). In TEWV, positive risk-taking is policy, including understanding some
risky behaviours as survival strategies.
TIA is a complex concept, and opportunities to acquire and develop knowledge are needed.
The two 2014 UK conferences on trauma-informed mental healthcare have helped create such
opportunities. Yet knowledge alone is insufficient: as Kotter and Cohen (2003) argue, Without
conviction that you can make change happen, you will not act, even if you see the vision.
Support for implementation is also crucial. It is estimated that it takes 10-15 years for new
healthcare innovations to be incorporated into routine clinical practice (e.g. Proctor et al., 2009).
This gap between research and its implementation is referred to as the translational gap
(Tansella and Thornicroft, 2009). Implementation science aims to bridge this translational
divide. Thus, in bringing TIA to the UK, implementation science will have an important role to
play in supporting individuals and organisations to enact change. Whilst implementation
science is beyond the scope of this paper to describe (see, e.g. Damschroder et al., 2009), key
ingredients might include implementing a rewards and recognition scheme for staff (Kotter and
Cohen, 2003; Tansella and Thornicroft, 2009); understanding current organisational culture
and the shifts needed to achieve change (Damschroder et al., 2009); and providing case
studies of successful implementation to combat hopelessness and bolster confidence that
change is possible (Kotter and Cohen, 2003). Specific to TIA, Harris and Fallot (2009) have
developed a self-assessment and planning protocol which supports an organisations
implementation of TIAs. They argue that if the principles of TIA are reflected in the culture of an
organisation for each contact, physical setting, relationship and activity for survivors and staff,
the organisation is trauma-informed. Several key steps for moving towards this culture are
described in Table III, and Table IV contains a summary of useful resources. In Box 2, AK
described her experiences of bringing TIA to TEWV. Key steps in implementing TIA in TEWV
have included designing a trauma-informed pathway, training staff, conducting evaluations,
developing written guidelines for stakeholders and promoting ownership at senior levels; this
implementation can take ten years (Brooker et al., 2016).
Once a critical mass develops, it will become easier for people to model TIA, mentor others,
create networks, identify trauma champions and share ideas (Turner, 1990). We believe
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that trauma survivors have a pivotal role to play in this. We live the impact of trauma everyday.
We understand its devastating effects, the damage inflicted by the current mental
health system, the need for mutual relationships based on safety and cooperation, the need
for personal control, and the vital support of peers. In bringing TIAs to the UK, we need survivor
leaders and champions advocating for values-based system change with passion and
commitment. Our hope is that this vision will become a reality and that this discussion paper will
have contributed to this.
Angela Sweeney is funded by a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship award from the
National Institute for Health Research. The views expressed in this publication are those of the
authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the National Institute for Health Research or the
Department of Health. Dr Sweeney would like to thank the Advisory Groups for their contribution
to the APTT study (understanding and improving Assessment Processes for Talking Therapies)
from which this paper has arisen: Vanessa Anenden, Katie Bogart, Dr Sarah Carr, Dr Jocelyn Catty,
Professor David Clark, Dr Sarah Clement (co-author), Alison Faulkner, Sarah Gibson, Mary Ion,
Dr Jayasree Kalathil, Steve Keeble, Dr Angela Kennedy (co-author), Dr Gemma Kothari
and Lana Samuels.
Table III Harris and Fallots key steps for implementing TIA in an organisation
Key step Activity
Planning Including leadership commitment, formation of a trauma workgroup to lead and oversee change and the identification
of a trauma champion
An initial training event For as many staff as possible plus service users, encompassing the principles and practice of TIA, care and support for
staff, trauma work in the organisation, future directions and implementation
Short-term follow up The trauma workgroup develops an implementation plan using the protocol, and further training is provided to staff
Longer term follow up Progress is reviewed including barriers to implementation. Ongoing processes are implemented such as TIA questions
in service user experience surveys, and implementation plans added to quality assurance processes
Table IV Further resources
Organisation/study About Web link
The ACE study Website for the landmark study into the link between
adverse childhood experiences and adult health.
Includes links to publications and study materials
National Center for Trauma
Informed Care
Americas National Center for promoting and
supporting TIC/TIAs. Includes resources, tools,
newsletters and more
Community Connections Not-for-profit mental health service provider in
Washington, US, headed by Roger Fallot and Maxine
Harris, the originators of TIAs. Includes a list of
Community Connections products
The Anna Institute Created by Ann Jennings, PhD, whose daughter died
by suicide following childhood sexual abuse and
enforced detention and treatment in the psychiatric
system. Includes resources and links to publications.
Ann Jennings hosts a discussion list for people
interested in TIAs (SPSCOT)
National Council for
Community Behavioral
As well as having a section for TIAs on their website
which lists resources, an issue of the National Council
Magazine (2011, issue 2) is dedicated to TIAs
trauma-informed-behavioral-healthcare/; www.
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Author affiliations
Angela Sweeney is a NIHR Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Population Health Research
Institute, St Georges University of London, London, UK.
Sarah Clement is Visiting Researcher at the Department of Health Service and Population
Research, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, Kings College London,
London, UK.
Beth Filson is an Independent Writer and Trainer in Trauma-informed Approaches, Williamsburg,
Massachusetts, USA.
Angela Kennedy is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Service Lead at Tertiary Psychosis
Service, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust, Durham, UK.
Corresponding author
Angela Sweeney can be contacted at:
For instructions on how to order reprints of this article, please visit our website:
Or contact us for further details:
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... Trauma-informed approaches have arisen in part due to evidence that trauma experiences fundamentally impact survivors' worldviews, relationships and ways of engaging with services and staff. 20,21 Consequently, in a trauma-informed service, treatment or therapy is delivered in ways that ensure survivors can engage without experiencing or compounding harms. This approach has been summarized as the 'four R's': A program, organization or system that is traumainformed realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery; recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff and others involved with the system; and responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures and practices, and seeks to actively resist re-traumatization. ...
... In fully integrating knowledge about trauma into service provision, 'choice, trustworthiness, collaboration and empowerment' must be facilitated. 23 Doing so can enable trauma survivors-who may constitute a significant majority of people seeking psychological therapy-to access and remain in services, 20 preventing drop out and revolving door services. This is particularly important given the often high 'did not attend' rates in psychological therapies 24 and the potential role of assessments within this. ...
... Two published reviews. 3,20 Step 2. Service User Advisory Group (SUAG) data workshop A data workshop was held with SUAG members to review potential guideline content extracted from Step 1 and to arrange content into a draft model of trauma-informed talking therapy assessments. ...
Background: Psychological therapy assessments are a key point at which a person is accepted into a service or referred on. There is evidence of service users experiencing harm, dropping out of services and potentially experiencing poor outcomes because of inadequate assessment practices. Approaches to assessment tend to be developed by individual services, with a lack of research identifying what makes a good assessment. Methods: This survivor-led study, based in England, aimed to generate guidelines for conducting trauma-informed psychological therapy assessments. The study was guided by a Service User Advisory Group and a Clinician Advisory Group. The study was conducted in three key stages: (i) identifying, modelling and drafting guideline content (ii) modified Delphi study and (iii) guideline finalization. Stage 1 was informed by literature reviews, qualitative research, data workshops with Advisory Groups and an expert consultation. Fifty-nine people with relevant experiences then participated in a single-stage modified Delphi (Stage 2). The guidelines were finalized through an analysis of Delphi open comments and a final expert consultation (Stage 3). Results: The guidelines evolved through each stage of the process, and all items were deemed important by >90% of Delphi participants. The final trauma-informed guidelines contain eight principles, including 'focus on relationships', 'from systems to people' and 'healing environments'. Conclusions: Experiential knowledge was key in generating the guidelines and conceptualizing content, with a consequent focus on areas, such as recognizing power differentials, understanding oppression as trauma and the relational aspects of assessments. Future research should focus on guideline implementation and investigate whether this impacts service user dropout, engagement with therapy, and outcomes. Patient or public contribution: This study is an example of survivor research, with several authors, including the study lead, identifying as survivors. We consider the ways in which our identities as survivor researchers impacted the study findings.
... Service provider resistance to TIC surfaced repeatedly as a common theme across all systems. 45,46,53,59,61,63,[74][75][76][77] Service providers represent a powerful interest group and their perception that TIC will create direct and diffuse costs for providers has resulted in significant resistance. The various reasons service providers are resistant to TIC include lack of time, paucity of resources, inadequate training, concerns that trauma screening will cause distress in the service user, fear of not being equipped to deal with trauma disclosure, resistance to provider exposure to trauma, concerns about vicarious trauma, perceptions that TIC is ineffective and beyond the scope of practice, and insufficient financial infrastructure to ensure provider remuneration for services provided. ...
... The various reasons service providers are resistant to TIC include lack of time, paucity of resources, inadequate training, concerns that trauma screening will cause distress in the service user, fear of not being equipped to deal with trauma disclosure, resistance to provider exposure to trauma, concerns about vicarious trauma, perceptions that TIC is ineffective and beyond the scope of practice, and insufficient financial infrastructure to ensure provider remuneration for services provided. 33,45,46,52,53,59,65,75,76,78,79 Ideas ...
... [83][84][85][86] Regarding organizational authority, management approaches, particularly ongoing and visible support from top leadership, is noted to be essential. 75,78,[87][88][89] ...
Policy Points In order to achieve successful operationalization of trauma-informed care (TIC), TIC policies must include conceptual clarity regarding the definition of both trauma and TIC. Furthermore, TIC requires clear and cohesive policies that address operational factors such as clearly delineated roles of service providers, protocol for positive trauma screens, necessary financial infrastructure, and mechanisms of intersectoral collaboration. Additionally, policy procedures need to be considered for how TIC is provided at the program and service level as well as what TIC means at the organizational, system, and intersectoral level. Context: Increased recognition of the epidemiology of trauma and its impact on individuals within and across human service delivery systems has contributed to the development of trauma-informed care (TIC). How TIC can be conceptualized and implemented, however, remains unclear. This study seeks to review and analyze the TIC literature from within and across systems of care and to generate a conceptual framework regarding TIC. Methods: Our study followed a critical interpretive synthesis methodology. We searched multiple databases (Campbell Collaboration, Econlit, Health Systems Evidence, Embase, ERIC, HealthSTAR, IPSA, JSTOR, Medline, PsychINFO, Social Sciences Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts and Web of Science),as well as relevant gray literature and information-rich websites. We used a coding tool, adapted to the TIC literature, for data extraction. Findings: Electronic database searches yielded 2,439 results and after inclusion/exclusion criteria were applied, a purposive sample of 98 information-rich articles was generated. Conceptual clarity and definitional understanding of TIC is lacking in the literature, which has led to poor operationalization of TIC. Additionally, infrastructural and ideological barriers, such as insufficient funding and service provider "buy-in," have hindered TIC implementation. The resulting conceptual framework defines trauma and depicts critical elements of vertical TIC, including the bidirectional relationship between the trauma-affected individual and the system, and horizontal TIC, which requires intersectoral collaboration, an established referral network, and standardized TIC language. Conclusions: Successful operationalization of TIC requires policies that address current gaps in systems arrangements, such as the lack of funding structures for TIC, and political factors, such as the role of policy legacies. The emergent conceptual framework acknowledges critical factors affecting operationalization.
... Trauma-informed approaches (TIAs) have been increasingly influential across healthcare settings, 8,9 including dentistry, 10 with calls for all healthcare professionals to receive appropriate training 11 to address the iatrogenic harm caused by the lack of understanding of the effects of psychological trauma on healthcare treatment. 12 TIAs in dentistry in the UK are nascent but advances in treating psychologically traumatised patients in US dentistry positions TIAs as effective in meeting the needs of patients with psychological trauma. ...
... 10 Traditional mental health approaches are organised around the question 'what is wrong with you?' , whereas trauma-informed approaches are interested in 'what happened to you?' . 9 The former question may close down conversations around the cause of distress, shutting out relevant information on trauma triggers. The TIA aims to open dialogue and gather information to structure care, which benefits dentists by facilitating the survivor to allow dental treatment. ...
Full-text available
Introduction Seven percent of the adult population in the UK, including one in six women, report unwanted sexual experiences before the age of 16. The impacts of psychological trauma following child sexual abuse (CSA) creates difficulties for many survivors in accessing dental care due to fears of reminders of abuse, the power imbalance with the dentist and triggered traumatic responses. Aims To analyse and report CSA survivor perspectives of dental care and offer suggestions for practice. Method Qualitative semi-structured interviews of 17 CSA survivors generated data as part of a broader study investigating trust and trustworthiness in survivor-professional relationships. The range of dental interactions and the needs survivors described when receiving dental treatment are presented. Transcripts were analysed using NVivo software and thematic analysis methodology. Results Three main themes were identified: the dental encounter ('it really panics me'); the opportunity to disclose; and choice and control. Conclusion This is the first UK study to present qualitative data from CSA survivors about their experiences of dental care. Survivors wish to access dental care but tailored support is needed to ameliorate reminders of abuse and traumatic stress triggers. Trauma-informed care may address difficulties with treatment if dental staff adopt flexible approaches and work collaboratively with survivors to facilitate relational safety. (Please note, in this paper, 'survivors' refers to those sexually abused as children).
... Negative experiences such as those produced by restrictive interventions may compound existing trauma and create new trauma. Mental health professionals should be aware of this and work towards providing trauma-informed care (Sweeney et al 2016). According to Sweeney et al (2016), being trauma-informed means acknowledging and addressing patients' past trauma and recognising the risk of re-traumatisation in healthcare services. ...
... Mental health professionals should be aware of this and work towards providing trauma-informed care (Sweeney et al 2016). According to Sweeney et al (2016), being trauma-informed means acknowledging and addressing patients' past trauma and recognising the risk of re-traumatisation in healthcare services. This is embedded in the Mental Health Act 1983 which states that factors that may contribute to 'behavioural disturbance' include 'exposure to situations that mirror past traumatic experiences' (DH 2015). ...
... Specifically, the service should continue to provide training in a trauma-informed approach, this has been demonstrated to be effective and beneficial to both trauma survivors and staff. 12 Finally, the service could consider increasing the offer of on the day support from the ISVAs that are located within the service. Above all else, patients' choices in accessing or declining support remains paramount. ...
Full-text available
Sexual violence (SV) has significant impacts on physical, social and psychological wellbeing, with associated mental illness and suicide. Despite no specific guidelines regarding mental health and SV, recommendations suggest all patients should have the opportunity to discuss their mental health and be offered referrals for support. A service evaluation was performed at a large Sexual and Reproductive Health Service (SRHS) with n = 179 patient records reviewed between 30/07/2021 to 01/10/21, who had disclosed SV including n = 83 referred from Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC). Patient exclusions included duplicates and non-attendances. Data on patient demographics, mental health assessment and referral services were analysed. Referral services included Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs), a specialist third sector organisation Rape and Sexual Violence Project (RSVP), and an inhouse specialist SV clinic, Abuse Survivors Clinic (ASC). Demographic analysis demonstrated that 43% of cases were aged over 25 years, 47% were 18–25 and 10% under 18. Females comprised 85% of cases. Mental health history was documented in 91% of SARC referrals, compared to 77% of patients who directly attended SRHS. Current mental health was assessed in 83% of SARC referral patients, compared to 75% of direct SRHS patients. RSVP was offered to 81% of patients, more than any other service. ISVA was offered to 40% of patients, and ASC was offered to 3% of patients. In total, 11% of patients were offered no service referrals. Findings suggest improvements should be made to ensure all patients have discussions around their mental health and are offered support services following SV disclosure. Further research is required to determine whether these changes improve patient outcomes.
... A review of research on associations of trauma type with PTSD in the World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health (WMH) surveys involving representative participant-data from 24 countries, found that 70.4% of respondents experienced lifetime traumas, describing interpersonal violence; rape and other sexual assault; being stalked; unexpected death of a loved one [31]. In a clinical context trauma is broadly defined by Sweeney et al. who acknowledge that definitions vary, encompassing experience of violence through to complex childhood developmental traumas, also social trauma and historical trauma [66]. In his seminal work, Van der Kolk makes explicit reference to the body's role in trauma recovery and describes: ...
... Re-traumatization within health services can affect both patients and members of staff, with the latter experiencing vicarious trauma [20]. The resulting chronic stress may impact on staff members' ability to empathise and support others [21]. Many healthcare staff themselves have lived experience of trauma. ...
Full-text available
Background Trauma-informed (TI) approach is a framework for a system change intervention that transforms the organizational culture and practices to address the high prevalence and impact of trauma on patients and healthcare professionals, and prevents re-traumatization in healthcare services. Review of TI approaches in primary and community mental healthcare identified limited evidence for its effectiveness in the UK, however it is endorsed in various policies. This study aimed to investigate the UK-specific context through exploring how TI approaches are represented in health policies, and how they are understood and implemented by policy makers and healthcare professionals. Methods A qualitative study comprising of a document analysis of UK health policies followed by semi-structured interviews with key informants with direct experience of developing and implementing TI approaches. We used the Ready Extract Analyse Distil (READ) approach to guide policy document review, and the framework method to analyse data. Results We analysed 24 documents and interviewed 11 professionals from healthcare organizations and local authorities. TI approach was included in national, regional and local policies, however, there was no UK- or NHS-wide strategy or legislation, nor funding commitment. Although documents and interviews provided differing interpretations of TI care, they were aligned in describing the integration of TI principles at the system level, contextual tailoring to each organization, and addressing varied challenges within health systems. TI care in the UK has had piecemeal implementation, with a nation-wide strategy and leadership visible in Scotland and Wales and more disjointed implementation in England. Professionals wanted enhanced coordination between organizations and regions. We identified factors affecting implementation of TI approaches at the level of organization (leadership, service user involvement, organizational culture, resource allocation, competing priorities) and wider context (government support, funding). Professionals had conflicting views on the future of TI approaches, however all agreed that government backing is essential for implementing policies into practice. Conclusions A coordinated, more centralized strategy and provision for TI healthcare, increased funding for evaluation, and education through professional networks about evidence-based TI health systems can contribute towards evidence-informed policies and implementation of TI approaches in the UK.
... 11 TIC further emphasises the fundamental role of psychological trauma in shaping a person's experience of care. 2 As distinct from trauma specific clinical treatment, trauma-informed services are organised in ways that engender safety for all and do not re-traumatise survivors. 12,13 Central to TIC are (i) the capability of staff to identify when psychological trauma may be affecting a person's experience of care, and (ii) organisational processes to maximise the person's control. 14 These organisational and systems level approaches are widely applied in mental health settings, but are not routinely implemented in aged care, despite trauma exposure among aged care recipients. 2 Delivery of TIC has the potential to improve the quality of aged and dementia care. ...
Objective: While Trauma-informed care (TIC) has the potential to improve the quality of aged and dementia care, the challenge remains in translating the principles of TIC into practice. This study aimed to characterise what trauma-informed aged care looks like in practice, by learning from an aged care service acknowledged as delivering trauma-informed aged care effectively. Method: We conducted an appreciative inquiry study within a residential aged care service catering for veterans and others with trauma histories. Observation of care behaviours, interviews with staff and residents, and organisational policy mapping were used to identify elements that maximised care safety and accessibility for trauma survivors. Data were analysed and triangulated using a framework analysis approach. Results: The aged care provider embedded the principles of TIC into its staff training (i) to promote understanding of how trauma may affect experiences in care, and (ii) to adapt care when appropriate to promote safety. The service promoted a calm atmosphere where residents could make choices and felt safe. Uniforms and signage provided consistency, clarity, and transparency for residents. Staff behaviours demonstrated respect, fostered trust, and anticipated needs without unnecessarily imposing care. Staff consistently offered choices, used residents' names, sought permission before providing care, and offered reassurance. Staff reported high morale with a commitment to delivering high quality care, and feedback to management. Effective communication promoted information sharing and trust among staff. Conclusion: Trauma-informed practice was facilitated through organisational policy, a dignified environment, and thoughtful staff behaviour creating safety, choice, and control for residents.
There is an increasing recognition of the need to design and develop services that adopt a more sensitive, informed and responsive approach to those who may have experienced trauma and use or need mental health support and care. Developing a trauma-informed care approach demands not only an understanding of trauma and its associated link with mental health and recovery but also an understanding of the potential for re-traumatisation to occur in the context of some mental health practices and care. An equally important component of a trauma-informed care approach is improving staff’s well-being by reducing secondary trauma stress and/or vicarious traumatisation. However, the implementation of a trauma-informed care approach has been challenged within the mental health services by the lack of understanding about trauma and its impact, as well as a lack of clarity about what constitutes the implementation of a trauma-informed approach in practice. This chapter focuses on how advanced practice mental health nurses (APMHNs) can, through their own practice, enhance the understanding of trauma, facilitate the development and implementation of a trauma-informed approach to mental healthcare and advocate for the systemic changes required to be better able to meet the needs, well-being and safety of both those receiving care and those providing care across the mental health system.KeywordsTraumaTrauma-informed careRe-traumatisationVicarious trauma
People seeking asylum face unique challenges and frequently experience mental health problems. Effective support requires an understanding of their mental health needs in the broader context of their lives, cultures and extreme experiences. This book provides practical guidance for professionals and services working with people seeking asylum in mental health, social care, legal, government. managerial and commissioning roles. With authors from a wide range of professional backgrounds, the book is enriched by accounts from people with first hand experience of the asylum system itself. It considers the challenges and dilemmas faced by all involved, including clients, clinicians and service planners, with a wealth of practical information about how to assess and understand strengths and needs, avoid inappropriate conclusions and discrimination, consider treatment options, and write records and reports. The authors emphasise that effective support depends on reflection, humanity and compassion. The book is a must-have resource for professionals working with those who have to seek asylum.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Paper presented at the 'Psychological Trauma-Informed Care Conference', Stirling University, Stirling, 4 June, Presentation explores the implications for wider social policy of adopting a trauma informed perspective and argues that the existing awareness ( as of 2014) of the diverse aspects of trauma and its implications within specialist services needs to be shared across society if the transformative possibilities of a new narrative are to be fully realized.
Full-text available
A new and profoundly important paradigm for understanding overwhelming emotional pain has emerged over the last few years, with the potential to change the way we conceptualize human suffering across the whole spectrum of mental health difficulties. It is a strongly evidence-based synthesis of findings from trauma studies, attachment theory and neuroscience, which offers new hope for recovery. It also presents a powerful challenge to biomedical model psychiatry in that it is based on scientific evidence that substantiates and attests to what many individuals with first-hand experience of mental health problems have always known — that the bad things that happen to you can drive you mad. In this article we will summarize the key findings and reflect on the implications for current practice.
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For several decades the dominance of a rather simplistic, reductionist and pessimistic 'medical model' has, especially in relation to 'schizophrenia', relegated poverty and its attendant disadvantages (child neglect and abuse, overcrowding, dysfunctional families, etc.) to the role of mere triggers of a supposed, but unproven, genetic predisposition. For seventy years, however, research has repeatedly demonstrated not only that poverty is a powerful predictor of who develops psychosis, and who is diagnosed 'schizophrenic' (with or without a family history of psychosis), but that poverty is more strongly related to 'schizophrenia' than to other mental health problems. This paper argues that an evidence-based resolution to the longstanding debate between 'social causation' and 'social drift' explanations is that the former perspective explains how poverty is a major cause of psychosis and the latter explains how poverty is involved in its maintenance. Poverty is also a predictor of diagnosis and treatment selection, sometimes regardless of actual symptomatology. Evidence is also presented demonstrating that relative poverty may be an even stronger predictor of mental health problems, including 'schizophrenia', than poverty per se. Psychologists are encouraged to pay more attention to the psycho-social causes of their clients' difficulties, to the role of the pharmaceutical industry in perpetuating a narrow 'medical model' and, most importantly in the long run, to the need for primary prevention programmes. Copyright © This material is
Introduction: Research in Sexual Assault Referral Centres has shown that 40% of those attending are known to mental health services. The question we posed in this study was to what extent do mental health services know about this group? This was a pertinent question to ask as in 2008 the Department of Health (DH) amended the Care Programme Approach (CPA) to include a question on sexual abuse/violence as part of the overall assessment. Aims: To assess the extent to which Mental health Trusts were implementing DH guidance on the CPA in relation to assessment of sexual violence and abuse. Method: 1. Freedom of Information (FOI) requests were sent to all Mental Health Trusts. 2. The Information base at the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was interrogated as Trusts can make returns on this CPA question, however it is not mandatory. Results: 1. The FOI requests revealed that: only 66% of staff were trained to 'ask the question' (range 35-100%) and only five out of 53 Trusts audited whether the question was asked. 2. The HSCIC data revealed that in 2014/15 there were 335,727 people in the CPA in England and there was a record in only 17% of cases of the question being asked. Over half (57%) of the 69 providers who did not submit any information on the indicator in 2014/15 as well as, for those 30 providers who did submit information, the data field was only 41% complete. Conclusions: The impetus for 'asking the question' first established in 2008 with the establishment of eight pilot training programmes, has been lost. It is clear that Trusts are not training adequate number of staff nor are they returning useable data to HSCIC. If 40% of people attending SARCs are known to mental health services we suspect that few staff in mental health trusts known much about such a referral. Research shows convincingly that sexual violence and abuse plays a clear role in the aetiology of mental health disorders. A history of such violence/abuse should be always established (or otherwise).
This book describes what happens to human service delivery programs under the impact of unrelenting stress and multiple losses. Never perfect places of safety in the first place, many social services of every size, shape, and variety are collapsing under over thirty years of system fragmentation even while public costs have escalated dramatically. The result is that important places of refuge-of sanctuary-for the children, adults, and families who have been exposed to the greatest amount of adversity and trauma, are struggling to provide even the most minimally adequate services. We believe that at this point, our social service network is functioning as a trauma-organized system still largely unaware of the multiple ways in which adaptation to chronic stress has created a state of dysfunction that in many cases virtually prohibits the recovery of the individual clients who are the source of the underlying and original organizational missions, while damaging many of the people who work within it. Just as the encroachment of trauma into the life of an individual client is an insidious process that turns the past into a nightmare, the present into a repetitive cycle of re-enactment, and the future into a terminal illness, the impact of chronic strain on an organization is insidious. As seemingly logical reactions to difficult situations pile upon each other, no one is able to truly perceive the fundamentally skewed and post-traumatic basic assumptions upon which that logic is built. As an earthquake can cause the foundations of a building to become unstable, even while the building still stands, apparently intact, so too does chronic repetitive stress or sudden traumatic stress destabilize the cognitive and affective foundations of shared meaning that is necessary for a group to function and stay whole. The goal of this book is a practical one: to provide the beginnings of a coherent framework for organizational staff and leaders to more effectively provide trauma-informed care for their clients by becoming trauma-sensitive themselves. This means becoming sensitive to the ways in which all human beings and human systems are impacted by individual and collective exposure to overwhelming stress.