What Does it Mean to be Trauma-Informed? A Multi-System Perspective from Practitioners Serving the Community

Ana Maria Meléndez Guevara, Sarah Lindstrom Johnson, Kit Elam, Tristyn Rivas, Hannah Berendzen, Diana E. Gal-Szabo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The increased awareness of the detrimental consequences of trauma exposure has led researchers to focus their attention in identifying best practices on integrating trauma-informed approaches (TIAs) to child and family services. Yet, terms related to TIAs are often utilized without an adequate definition, and most importantly, without concrete and specific strategies to ensure that services are in fact trauma-informed. Using a multi-methods approach, this project examined important practice considerations that support successful implementation of TIA in school and community-based behavioral health settings. Key informant interviews and electronic surveys were conducted with child and family systems practitioners; interviews inquired about training, current practices, and barriers to service engagement. Data was analyzed, organized, and synthesized in accordance with core domains and specific components proposed by Hanson and Lang’s (2014) trauma-informed care framework. Findings suggest that practice of TIA differed by system and was largely driven by experiential and informal learning experiences. Practitioners also report challenges unique to each system hinder the utilization of screening and intervention best practices. Salient differences included those related to knowledge and accessibility to training, utilization of evidence-based practices, application of screening tools, and availability of resources within their systems. This brings to light the importance of considering both general and system-specific practice mechanism for the successful implementation and sustainability of TIA frameworks. We suggest system-specific strategies to help integrate trauma into services, including prioritizing capacity building efforts within each system by leveraging their natural supports and identifying systems-specific assets for both screening and intervention practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2860-2876
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Child and family
  • Implementation
  • Strategies
  • System-specific
  • Trauma-informed approaches

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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