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Building a Trauma-Informed World by Dr Cathy Kezelman

There has been a growing awareness of trauma, including of complex trauma over the last 20 years. This has led to the development of a humane framework which we call being trauma-informed. This framework recognises how common trauma is. It also acknowledges the way trauma affects our wellbeing, and that of our families and communities.

This framework is informed by new knowledge around attachment, development, working with the body, memory and an understanding of self. This is influencing frameworks of care and treatment to move from purely bio-medical (medicine and psychiatry) and/or purely psychoanalytical (psychology) to include a psycho-social (trauma-informed) and recovery focus (recovery-oriented) as well.

This section of the website introduces you to Blue Knot’s vision for a trauma-informed world, based on this framework.

Trauma affects us all, directly or indirectly

Many people live with the ongoing effects of past and current trauma. Despite the large numbers of people affected by trauma, many of us often don’t consider that someone we meet, speak with or support may have experienced trauma. This makes us less likely to recognise it. Keeping the possibility of trauma on our radar means keeping the sensitivities and vulnerabilities of possible trauma survivors in mind. It means being respectful, acknowledging and understanding, empathic and compassionate.

What happened to you?

Having a basic understanding of stress and the stress response helps us pay attention to the way we engage with other people, as well as to ‘what’ we do. It helps us reflect about what may have happened to a person, rather than judging what is ‘wrong’ with them. It is always helpful to ask ourselves when speaking with some else: What happened to you?

Our interactions with one another are always important. They are especially important for people living with the impacts of trauma. Trauma interrupts the connections between our different systems of functioning – physical, emotional and cognitive (thinking). Recovery occurs when these different levels of functioning become connected or ‘integrated’ again.

Importance of relationships

Positive experiences in our relationships can help us heal just as negative experiences can cause us emotional and mental distress. It is important to acknowledge the capacity of positive interactions, even in routine interactions, to be soothing and validating. This applies to all of us, and especially to people with trauma histories. Support is crucial to the process of recovery. Positive experiences of relationships are central to trauma recovery. They are also important to general well-being.

As we all adopt the trauma-informed principles of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment, we can build a ‘trauma-informed’ society. Relating to one another in a trauma-informed way focusses on improving the ways in which we treat one another as human beings. This means tuning in to our differences and individual needs, with greater acceptance and understanding. We can all play a part in creating a trauma-informed world.

What are trauma-informed services?

Trauma often affects the way people can seek help and support. This is because many survivors feel unsafe, find it hard to trust and continue to live in fear. This can make it hard to come forward and seek help. Trauma-informed services can support people to feel safe, build trust, and overcome their fear and sense of betrayal. If you are wanting help and support for yourself or someone you are supporting the following characteristics of trauma-informed services may help support your journey.

Trauma-informed services:

· attune to the possibility of trauma in the lives of everyone seeking support

· apply the core principles of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment (Fallot and Harris, 2001)

· accommodate the vulnerabilities of trauma survivors including people from diverse backgrounds

· minimise the risks of re-traumatisation and promote healing

· emphasise physical and emotional safety for everyone

· recognise coping strategies as attempts to cope

· collaborate with clients, and affirm their strengths and resources

· recognise the importance of respect, dignity and hope

· focus on the whole context in which a service is provided and not just on what is provided.

Find this article and other Trauma Informed Resources at

Further Reading at:


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