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SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach

This paper was prepared by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). The authors explain, “The purpose of this paper is to develop a working concept of trauma and a trauma-informed approach and to develop a shared understanding of these concepts that would be acceptable and appropriate across an array of service systems and stakeholder groups…. The desired goal is to build a framework that helps systems ‘talk’ to each other, to understand better the connections between trauma and behavioral health issues, and to guide systems to become trauma-informed.”

The key questions addressed are the following:

  • What do we mean by trauma?
  • What do we mean by a trauma-informed approach?
  • What are the key principles of a trauma-informed approach?
  • What is the suggested guidance for implementing a trauma-informed approach?
  • How do we understand trauma in the context of community?