The term “trauma” encompasses a wide range of experiences, and there is no singular type of trauma or universal response to a traumatic event. Different individuals may react differently to the same event, and not everyone who experiences a traumatic incident will necessarily develop trauma afterward.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), trauma is defined as exposure to actual or threatened events involving death, serious injury, or sexual violation.
This exposure can occur through direct experience, witnessing the events happening to others, learning about the events happening to close family members or friends, or experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to the adverse details of the events.
The impact of ongoing stressors on children, known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), has been extensively studied by organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Research has shown that ACEs can lead to conduct issues in children and adolescents and have long-lasting consequences. Adults with high ACE scores face increased risks for physical health issues, mental illness, and early mortality.
The ten identified Adverse Childhood Experiences include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, family member or caretaker mental illness, family member or caretaker substance abuse, witnessing violence against the mother, having a relative sent to jail or prison, and losing a parent due to separation, divorce, or death.
Moreover, it has been suggested that racial trauma should also be considered an Adverse Childhood Experience, particularly for Black children, further highlighting the diverse range of experiences that can have a profound impact on individuals’ lives.
A trauma-informed therapist possesses comprehensive knowledge about trauma and acknowledges its potential impact on every client. Trauma-informed therapy places significant emphasis on reframing the approach, shifting from asking, “What is wrong with you?” to inquiring, “What happened to you?”
This shift in perspective recognizes the significance of understanding the client’s past experiences and fosters a more empathetic and supportive therapeutic environment.