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I am wondering how to appropriately use the word trauma-informed. My understanding that it refers to work that is specifically therapeutic and a trauma-based intervention. My work is more about aligning other areas (nutrition programs) with trauma-informed principles and practices. I am trying to use the word trauma-sensitive even though it is a less familiar term to the general public. Any thoughts and suggestions? Has trauma-informed now become a catchall phrase (and maybe lost its true meaning) or should I care to make the distinction? Is trauma sensitive more appropriate or is there another term?

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Work that is specifically therapeutic and interventions that are designed to treat trauma symptoms or trauma-related disorders are trauma-specific treatments or trauma-specific services. They are not the same as trauma-informed approaches. Trauma-informed care was developed as an alternative to coercive medical models of practice. It originated in behavioral health settings but has been adapted for other settings as well including child welfare and K-12 schools (which often use the term trauma sensitive even though they are technically using trauma-informed school-wide approaches). Trauma-informed refers to an organizational change process based on a set of principles that are designed to reduce the risk of retraumatization through standard operating procedures and to promote healing and empowerment. It takes a while for a whole organization (even a small one) to change its culture and become trauma-informed. So many of us are starting by applying the principles to our own programs/classrooms/departments first. To the extent one is using TI principles to change policies and practices, I would call it trauma-informed. If one is using treatments, such as behavioral or nutrition interventions, to address symptoms or disorders, then I would call it trauma-specific or trauma-aware or trauma-sensitive.   

Thank you. We are creating work that I would say is aligned with trauma-informed care and would ideally be implemented within a TI setting but doesn't necessarily address trauma or treat trauma impact. I would say it is trauma sensitive or trauma aware but those terms are not easily recognized. But I think it is important to not say we are offering something that is comprehensive.

Appreciate the confirmation.

In addition to the applying the principles, an essential part of being TI is understanding the prevalence and impact of trauma and resilience among educators as well as students. So if the curriculum is informed by TI principles and applies the principles in ways that help address the needs of both educators and students, I would call it trauma-informed.  If it focuses only on student trauma, then it risks locating the problem of trauma in students instead of in the environment/system, which would not be trauma-informed.  

In response to concerns about what to call something when it's not as big as an organization: If you are applying TI principles to policies and practices relevant to students and educators, I would still consider using the term trauma-informed. Ideally the whole system becomes TI. But a classroom is a system. A department is a system. A program is a system. A curriculum is a system. A private practice is a system. The Missouri Model may also provide some helpful guidance for what to call things as an organization/system progresses through the stages of becoming trauma-informed. 

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