Since the inception of trauma-informed care in the medical field in the late 1980s , the practice has evolved and permeated peripheral fields, including behavioral health, advocacy, and, in the past 20 years, research. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently partnered with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to create guiding principles of trauma-informed care in public health, and adjacent fields are establishing specialized trauma-informed practices.
Researchers seeking better understanding of the infrastructures, stakeholders, and experiences that affect people who have experienced trauma have a responsibility beyond standard research ethics to appropriately conduct trauma-informed research and recognize people’s lived experiences. How can researchers incorporate the principles of trauma-informed care into their work?
What is Trauma?
Trauma is defined as “any disturbing experience that results in significant fear, helplessness, dissociation, confusion, or other disruptive feelings intense enough to have a long-lasting negative effect on a person’s attitudes, behavior, and other aspects of functioning.”
Our understanding of trauma and its effects on people and communities is constantly evolving, but we know trauma adversely affects a person’s psychological and physiological states. There is no single or “right” reaction to trauma—it can result in a wide spectrum of responses.
The Key Tenets of Trauma-Informed Qualitative Research
If researchers don’t use a trauma-informed approach, their methods—especially interviews and focus groups—can retraumatize people and perpetuate harm.
I spoke with Urban Institute researchers with expertise and experience working with practitioners to create trauma-informed methodologies, and together we developed the following key tenets of trauma-informed qualitative research. These four methodological guidelines can be adjusted depending on project and population specifics.
Read the full article about trauma-informed care strategies in qualitative research by Rebecca Wong at Urban Institute.
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