Man and boy  in playscapeWe all want to offer trauma-informed care. We have been to workshops and training. We are committed to the theory. But what should we actually be doing?

Here are ten ways to tell if your milieu treatment program is actually doing trauma-informed care:





  1. Staff believe the child is doing the best that he or she can. Staff display an attitude of the child “doing the best they can” rather than assuming intentionality (i.e. “he is acting this way because he wants to;” “she’s not motivated;” “if he can choose to be disruptive, he can choose not to”)
  2. Staff explore the problem before responding. Staff try to understand (i.e. “what’s going on?, what’s wrong?”) rather than immediately speaking to the child about consequences.
  3. Staff use active listening with children Staff listen carefully, restate the problem, empathize with child’s feelings and needs.
  4. Staff do not shame children. Staff refrain from interactions that could be shaming to children (i.e. insisting child do things that unduly stretches child’s capability, isolating child, scolding in front of peers).
  5. Staff avoid power struggles. Staff do not get caught in verbal sparring, argumentative talk, insisting on immediate compliance, “he said, she said”, proving child wrong, etc.
  6. Staff don’t use negative labels. Staff don’t refer to children in descriptive ways and refrain from negative labels such as (i.e. manipulative, borderline, bad, untrustworthy).
  7. Staff value flexibility over immediate compliance. In managing behavior flexibility is more important than strict compliance with rules. Individualizing is more important than  treating all children equally.
  8. Staff help children calm down when they are upset. During behavioral issues, staffs primary goal is to help and teach children to calm down and get back in control of their behavior.
  9. Staff ask for help. Staff are willing to talk with their peers and supervisors about their strong positive and negative reactions to clients and doing the work. Staff feel free to ask their peers for help, or take over for a peer, when there is an impasse in managing a behavioral issue.
  10. The Team works well together. Multidisciplinary team members function well as a team – manage conflict, care for each other, avoid splits such as therapist/child care worker splits.

Please click here for a training tool to explore these issues with your team.
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We also have similar tools for community services, foster care, etc. Send me an email at if you would like one of those.

What do you think demonstrates the use of trauma-informed care? Add your ideas in the comments section.

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