Used in the fields of mental health, social services, health care, education and law, “trauma,” “complex trauma” and “trauma-informed practice” are terms that have different meanings across and within disciplines. Each discipline has developed assessment and measurement tools to reveal the nature and severity of trauma and the extent to which an individual is coping with traumatic events.

Medical Aspects of Trauma

In medicine, trauma often refers to an external wound to the body. In child welfare practice, trauma-informed care stems from the findings of the seminal Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study in 1998. The American Psychological Association defines trauma as:

“… an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.”

Psychological Trauma

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