Trauma-Informed vs. Healing-Centered Care

"Trauma-Informed" has become quite the buzz word in social work and psychology. Trauma-informed care is the new gold standard for mental health services. It is based on principles of safety, trust, collaboration, agency, and empathy and offers a model of health and healing for staff and patients. If you are interested in learning more, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) has some great resources.


While I really appreciate the integration of trauma-informed approaches into healing services, this intervention falls short on its own. Although it has the best intentions, the label "trauma-informed" puts the emphasis on trauma and not as much on healing. "Trauma" is a loaded word and can elicit feelings, memories, and experiences of catastrophic events. "Healing," however, demonstrates people's resiliency in navigating and living in a world after such traumas.


My argument here is not completely original. Shawn Ginwright writes a compelling piece for Medium, titiled "The Future of Healing: Shifting From Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement." While Ginwright suggests a "shift" from trauma-informed to healing-centered care, I propose an "integration" of the two approaches. "Integration" is a very intentional word, as survivorship and resiliency from trauma often require the integration of trauma into one's life and not a shift from the traumatic event to the everyday lived experience.


So, what does this look like? A combination of trauma-informed and healing-centered approaches, care, and services may include:


- The recognition that trauma is not always an individual experience and that healing does not have to occur in isolation or a clinical setting. Systematic oppression (racism, classism, sexism, etc.) creates trauma. Healing can be a collective experience through alternative means to traditional therapy like activism, movement, breath, and art.


- A narrative shift that changes the question from "What happened to you?" to "What is right with you?; What strengths do you possess?" While trauma-informed care does promote empowerment, healing-centered engagement approaches empowerment from a strengths-based perspective.


- An emphasis on people being the agents of their wellbeing and not the victims of traumatic events. A trauma-informed and healing-centered approach recognizes healing and survivorship as a political act and not a clinical one. Survivors can gain ownership over their traumas by bringing their healing outside a medicalized and institutionalized space.


Thank you for taking the time to consider these approaches, and let me know what you think! You can comment below or contact me here.



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First off, welcome to Designing Healing! I'm Brita Loeb, MSW and I am beyond excited to share with you the power of design and aesthetics to elicit positive human emotion and behavior. Not convinced?

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