5 Pillars of Trauma-Informed Care

By Poorna Sudha Goli, MSW Student

Trauma presents itself in various forms through a single event or continual exposure to an experience. These experiences influence a person's thinking, feeling, and behavior on many levels. Trauma can happen to anyone; to some extent, it is present in almost everybody, and as social workers, you may encounter clients and colleagues impacted. Trauma-informed care is an approach that is unique and redesigns client and therapist relationships. The therapist is no longer the expert or authoritative figure in this approach, where the therapist is a partner. Trauma-informed care promotes a collaborative approach toward problem-solving [1]. It is coming to light as a nee strength-based approach to working with individuals who have experienced Trauma [2].

According to the Substance abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Trauma-informed care is primarily concerned with realizing the prevalence of Trauma, meaning being aware of Trauma that is commonly present in everybody. It also involves understanding how Trauma can affect an individual on Micro, Mezzo, and Macro levels. As a social worker, providing Trauma-informed care is putting the knowledge about Trauma into practice by being mindful of your words and actions [3].

The top halves of 6 ancient pillars in greyscale.

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

Five pillars of Trauma-informed care help guide the social work practice to become more efficient overall.

  1. Safety: This principle emphasizes the client's physical and emotional safety. This principle also means creating safety for people with different lives than us and different levels of Trauma. To provide safety, it is essential to ask the client what safety means to them because every client is not the same, considering all ages, genders, and races. So, knowing what safety means to the client is always important.
  2. Choice: This principle involves providing the client with options and giving them complete control to choose whichever path they want. The clients must be informed about their rights and responsibilities to help them understand their choice to follow the intervention route. The client should only be forced to do something if the situation demands assertiveness on the therapist's part, otherwise entirely their choice.
  3. Collaboration: As the name suggests, this principle promotes a collaborative approach in the intervention methods. It emphasizes that the client is the expert in their life and the therapist is only a partner to the client to help them improve their social functioning. Collaboration means sharing the power, setting goals, and working towards them fluidly.
  4. Trustworthiness: In Trauma-informed care, decisions must be made upfront, and the goals - are built while maintaining trust. A session with the therapist will be efficient only when the client trusts the therapist. Being a therapist, it's crucial to be trustworthy to the client. Do it when and if you, as the therapist said that you would do it by the next appointment. Canceling appointments, Inactive listening, and breach of confidentiality will break the client's trust. While building trust is important, it is also necessary to maintain healthy professional and personal boundaries.
  5. Empowerment:  This principle is concerned with empowering the client by providing an atmosphere where they are validated and appreciated. It also means creating space for skill building. As mentioned earlier Trauma-informed care is emerging as a new strengths-based approach that allows clients to discover their strengths while being mindful of their Trauma. [4].

One of the main goals of Trauma-informed care is to reduce the risk of re-traumatizing while building resilience and healing. The five principles will provide a pathway to meet the Trauma-informed care goals. The principles are necessary because those who have experienced Trauma may react to a situation that may seem normal to a layperson in a very drastic manner. People with Trauma must feel safe and validated, and in environments where they feel unsafe, they may get agitated or panicked. To avoid such panic episodes, the five pillars can be used to promote Trauma-informed care practices. [5]


[1] Crisis Prevention Institute. Trauma-informed care for educators.

[2] Joeseph. (2022, September 17). Why Trauma Informed care is important?

[3] Integrative Life Center. (2021, May 3). The 5 Principles of Trauma-informed Care.

[4] University at Buffalo. The Five Principles of Trauma-informed care

[5] Joeseph. (2022, September 17). Why Trauma Informed care is important?

Published April 14, 2023