What is Trauma?

Q. What is trauma?

A. “A traumatic event is a scary, dangerous, or violent event. An event can be traumatic when we face or witness an immediate threat to ourselves or to a loved one, often followed by serious injury or harm. We feel terror, helplessness, or horror at what we are experiencing and at our inability to stop it or protect ourselves or others from it. Often people feel bad after a trauma. Even though we try hard to keep children safe, dangerous events still happen. This danger can come from outside of the family (such as a natural disaster, car accident, school shooting, or community violence) or from within the family, such as a serious injury, domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, or the unexpected death of a loved one”  – National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Q. What is trauma-informed care (TIC)?

A. Trauma-informed agencies or systems of care go beyond just providing evidenced-based treatments for trauma.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines TIC: “When a human service program takes the step to become trauma-informed, every part of its organization, management, and service delivery system is assessed and potentially modified to include a basic understanding of how trauma affects the life of an individual seeking services. Trauma-informed organizations, programs, and services are based on an understanding of the vulnerabilities or triggers of trauma survivors that traditional service delivery approaches may exacerbate, so that these services and programs can be more supportive and avoid re-traumatization.”  While not all members of the Trauma-Informed Care Consortium of Central Texas are TIC agencies, they are committed to providing knowledgeable trauma services to those in our community.

Q. My child has been acting differently lately and I am concerned. What are the signs and symptoms of trauma?

A. Reactions to and symptoms of trauma can vary across individuals. However, some signs/symptoms may be: Disbelief, shock, mood swings, guilt, self-blame, confusion, bedwetting, separation anxiety, changes in eating behaviors, fear, withdrawal, fatigue, insomnia, depression, substance abuse.  Symptoms of trauma can vary by age.  Very young children may show behaviors such as recreating the trauma through play, returning to “baby talk,” or bedwetting.   Older children may have difficulty sleeping or show changes in school performance, and teens can engage in risky behaviors, start using drugs/alcohol, or engage in self-harming behaviors.  Additional information about signs and symptoms of trauma can be found at The National Child Traumatic Stress Network site.

Q. What should I do if I or my child has experienced a traumatic event?

A. Take a look at our Where Can I Get Help? page.  This page provides a list of organizations in the Austin community that work with individuals who have experienced trauma.  Not all of these organizations are trauma-informed agencies, however all are committed to providing knowledgeable trauma-informed services.  The organizations are categorized by the types of services they offer.

Q. I do not live in or near Austin, where can I go to find trauma-informed services in my area?

A. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website provides Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator that can provide information and referrals to trauma-informed services in your area.