The Alphabet Soup of Trauma Work

Whether an organization is just getting started in change or been working at it for a long time, it can be overwhelming to see all the different terms associated with the work.  Trauma-Informed, Trauma-Responsive, Trauma-Sensitive, Resilience, and Healthy Development frameworks can all be applied.  Seeing and hearing all these terms can be confusing.  What steps do we take? What framework is the right one to follow?

The reality is that there is no “right” answer.  Different systems may adopt different terms to reflect the whole continuum of trauma-based transformation.  For example, physical health providers may gravitate to Trauma-Informed Care, while educators in New York State may promote Trauma-Sensitive Schools.  At times, the terms may be used to demonstrate a progression and cycle of continuous growth and change as shown in the graphic. 


From this perspective of change management, an organization and its staff would first need to become
informed of trauma and its impact in order to foster empathy and become
sensitive to the issue.  Becoming
responsive to underlying needs related to trauma/adversity would follow which may lead to an increased focus on
resilience development and the recognition that we are all really talking about best practices to support healthy development –
mental, physical and behavioral health

This is not an endpoint as either! Individuals and organizations may then explore trends and similarities among populations but also key differences that need specialized attention.  These may include various levels of organizational hierarchy.  It will also likely include explorations of race, gender, sexual orientation, and other ways people are othered in our communities.  Looking for both risk and assets across each population can lead to new opportunities for growth.   Furthermore, new science may increase our understanding of both trauma and its impact along with protective factors.  And so the cycle continues with becoming more informed, sensitive, responsive, etc…

No matter the term you and/or your system adopt, or where you identify yourself in a change cycle, this is all the same work.  The NYS Trauma-Informed Network and its community of champions are here to help one another along the way on this continuous journey of transformation.


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