Two empty chairs facing one another.


As a healthcare provider, a social worker’s knowledge of trauma-informed theory and practice will assist them in a variety of scenarios. Trauma is a deep and sensitive aspect of a client’s psyche, and getting them to open up, let alone being able to work through this emotional pain, is a delicate process that takes a mixture of patience and understanding from the social worker. These key principles may help color the trauma-informed approach in social work and help the client realize their treatment goals.

What are the Key Principles of Trauma Informed Care in Social Work?

Trauma-informed care (or TIC) is a way to build up a framework, a bridge of understanding between childhood trauma and current presenting problems, and these principles can help both you and your client reach that point.

Outlining the Transformation Process
First, it is important that a social worker communicates the plan during the healing process. Clients who have gone through traumatic experiences often come to a social worker or psychotherapist with reservations, due to years of being able to be dependent on only themselves. Being able to break down these protective barriers is essential to creating real changes during trauma-informed counseling.

Empowering Patients
The healing process that should occur through trauma-informed practice requires a social worker to not hand out advice to their clients. Due to a client’s sense of self-reliance, many times this type of advice can be either taken as an insult, or it will simply be disregarded. The only way a patient can create real substantial strides is by believing that they can make the changes because they have developed the resources to understand their struggles, see the ways they have created unhealthy cyclical habits, and now have the capacity to break out of those toxic cycles.

Creating a Comforting and Collaborative Environment
Empowering patients requires communication and collaboration, which can be done in a variety of ways that help to prioritize the client and how they spend their time during trauma-informed care. A social worker’s purpose is to help open up that dialogue. Remember, as a social worker, counselor, or psychotherapist treating a client you are asking, not telling. Questions help clients to realize their true potential in being able to wrap their minds around their past, and how it relates to the present moment.

Neutralize any Power Dynamic
Trauma-informed social work and the creative, collaborative environment it is built upon requires social workers to understand their relationship with their clients and how this relationship should develop over the course of the treatment. While social workers and counselors are usually viewed by clients as authority figures, it is important that this preconceived notion is quickly done with early on in the relationship.

Why are the Key Principles of Trauma Theory in Social Work Important?
For developing healthy coping mechanisms, a client needs to be immersed in a trusting and safe environment where they know they are in control, but are also not alone, and have someone they can reliably talk to validate the emotions they might have been bottling up for potentially many years. While each counseling client and session is unique, these tactics can be used in trauma-informed counseling to create a foundation on which you can build healthy coping tactics and create a partnership with your clients.

Where Can You Learn about Trauma-Theory and Social Work?
These strategies that make up trauma-informed theory are valuable tools for social workers who are trying to make a difference in the lives of their clients. At Saint Augustine College in Chicago, a bachelor’s degree in social work can be key in helping to empower your community through social justice. You will be given the tools to help individuals, families, and communities accomplish their goals and develop the resources they need to succeed.