Trauma-Responsive: Definition

We at the Attachment & Trauma Network (ATN) think it is important to specifically define the terms that are frequently used in the trauma movement.  Being a presence in this field since 1995, we have studied and developed the definitions of Trauma-Aware; Trauma-Informed; Trauma-Sensitive and Trauma-Responsive as we use them and believe reflect some important nuances about these terms.

ATN’s Certification Program will be launching in Summer 2024.  And as this program grows, will be delineated by these terms.



Trauma-sensitive individuals who work within organizations or communities that embrace the trauma-informed framework can create a trauma-responsive system.  Trauma-Responsive systems are ones that embrace the 6 key principles of a trauma-informed approach (SAMHSA 2014)

  1. Safety
  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency
  3. Peer Support
  4. Collaboration and Mutuality
  5. Empowerment, Voice and Choice
  6. Cultural, Historical and Gender Issues

Organizations need to be examined across all domains including governance & leadership; policy; physical environment; cross sector collaboration; services; training and workforce development; and monitoring & quality assurance.  They also need to set meaningful goals about the positive outcomes expected from being a trauma-responsive organization or community.  

Addressing systemic challenges, culturally responsive strategies, and the impact of systemic, historical and generational traumas is critical on the journey to becoming a trauma-responsive system.

Examples of being Trauma-Responsive:

  1. Pushing your school or organization to start on this trauma-informed journey by informing all the employees, working toward becoming trauma-sensitive and then toward becoming trauma-responsive.
  2. Proposing policies and programs that will shift systemic inequities and barriers and embed trauma-informed principles in the organization.

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