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February 5, 2014
by Cristina Rennie MA, RCC, CEIP – MH

Trauma Informed Counselling: The Details of Care Blog series #3

February 5, 2014 02:55 by Cristina Rennie MA, RCC, CEIP – MH

Becoming Trauma Informed

Most individuals seeking public behavioral health services and many other public services, such as homeless and domestic violence services, have histories of physical and sexual abuse and other types of trauma-inducing experiences. These experiences often lead to mental health and co-occurring disorders such as chronic health conditions, substance abuse, eating disorders, and HIV/AIDS, as well as contact with the criminal justice system.

When a human service program takes the step to become trauma-informed, every part of its organization, management, and service delivery system is assessed and potentially modified to include a basic understanding of how trauma affects the life of an individual seeking services. Trauma-informed organizations, programs, and services are based on an understanding of the vulnerabilities or triggers of trauma survivors that traditional service delivery approaches may exacerbate, so that these services and programs can be more supportive and avoid re-traumatization. (

What Changes When You Have Experienced Trauma

Whether you are working with people who have experienced trauma or you have experienced it yourself, it is helpful to understand some of the changes that you might witness. This is important because it externalizes Trauma and separates it from the person, which is something that Narrative therapy utilizes to help move people into the life that they want to live. The following are some of the symptoms of Trauma.

  • Alienation – isolation – which can result in suicide
  • Mistrust and guardedness
  • Loss of pleasure – Which can result in any of the type of addictions (drug and alcohol, sex, gambling, shopping, etc)
  • Loss of ability to feel sensual and sexual
  • Healthy connections
  • Repetitive and self-destructive relationships
  • Inability to self-sooth and cope
  • Problems with communicating needs
  • Feelings of guilt, loss and grief

The goal is to recognize the pervasiveness of trauma in people’s lives of all ages and to meet the needs of individuals in treatment facilities without re-traumatizing them through coercive and restrictive interventions such as restraint and seclusion (Hodas, 2006, pg 6). To further the definition of what can constitute Trauma, the following is a list of potential events and situations that can also invite trauma:

  • Direct involvement in a natural disaster
  • Witnessing a bad accident
  • Serious illness or death of someone close
  • Unnatural deaths
  • Direct experience of serious physical symptoms or illness
  • Significant separation form caregivers
  • Knowledge of suicide attempts or completed by someone close
  • Physical abuse or serious threat from anyone
  • Being jumped, mugged, kidnapped
  • Being attacked by an animal
  • Witnessing domestic violence
  • Use of a weapon in the family
  • Incarceration of a family member or significant person in their life
  • Direct involvement in war or mass violence (even watching on TV)
  • Community violence
  • Neglect
  • Sexual abuse, exploitation or witnessing
  • Emotional abuse or threats of permanent rejection
  • Drug use observed (Hodas, 2006, pg 42)
  • Risk and Protective Factors Related to Early Year Trauma


One of the next steps in assessing and creating a map of interventions for Trauma and its affects is to decrease risks by adding supplements and injecting more protective factors. The following are factors to consider.

  • Disabilities or cognitive challenges
  • Social isolation of families
  • Lack of caregiver understanding of the child’s needs and child development
  • Caregiver history of domestic abuse
  • Poverty and other socioeconomic disadvantage
  • Family dissolution, violence, including domestic abuse, lack of cohesion and ineffective organization
  • Substance abuse in the family
  • Caregiver stress and distress including depression and other mental health conditions
  • Young single and non bio parents
  • Negative caregiver child interactions
  • Caregiver beliefs and emotions that support maltreatment

Community violence (Hodas, 2006, pg14)

When looking at the above list it can give a bleak outlook but there are ways to trump the seemingly endless list of challenges. These key components of Trauma informed care involves the closely interrelated triad of understanding, commitment, and practice… (to be continued…)


By Cristina Rennie MA, RCC, CEIP – MH

604 751 2354

Cristina works in Abbotsford BC and is the creator of both Shamrock Counselling Services ( ) & Sundance Solace Society ( Sundance Solace is a non-profit branch that focuses on the power of nature to benefit people. If you would like to be involved there are a number of opportunities including: professional and practicum internships, associate positions, and volunteering. Please contact Cristina for more information 

About the Author

Shamrock Counselling Shamrock Counselling, MA, RCC, CBEIP, NAEFW

We believe the counselling should be an essential service and are committed to helping people find ways to access resources. We take the time to walk you through the process to find the best fit and suit your needs.

Shamrock Counselling can be found at
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