From Trauma-Informed to Trauma-Responsive: Concretizing Trauma-Informed Care with Clinical Skills of Co-Regulation



Trauma-informed care (TIC) is not optional. TIC care is built on awareness of how past trauma can impact clients in the present and active measures to prevent and mitigate traumatic stress reactions related to current life circumstances. TIC is also particularly important forclients from diverse and marginalized groups who are disproportionately affected by trauma and are less likely to receive treatment. But being informed about and aware of the role of trauma does not give providers the clinical skills and tools to effectively respond to their clients who are impacted by trauma. From a biopsychosocial and somatic psychology framework, trauma-responsive clinical skills include nervous system psychoeducation that empowers clients, the ability to establish therapeutic safety through co-regulation and attunement, and the clinician’s acknowledgement of own barriers to therapeutic safety.

This presentation will explain and concretize how principles of trauma-informed care translate into clinicians’ interactions with clients through a focus on nervous system co-regulation. Clinicians must develop awareness of how their personal biases manifest on a nervous system level. Clinicians are widely trained to develop cognitive awareness of their biases and countertransference reactions, but mental awareness is not enough if the reactions cause dysregulation in the provider’s nervous system that interferes with their ability to attune to the client. Through identification of the nervous system aspects of our bias reactions as providers, we can target our self-regulation and ensure the continued therapeutic safety that makes our care trauma-responsive.

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