Frequently Asked Questions

What is trauma?

Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances, experienced, by an individual that are physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening, and that have lasting adverse effects on the individuals functioning and their mental, physical, social, emotional or spiritual well-being.

What are the different types of trauma?

The types of trauma that can impact behavioral health include: sexual abuse or assault, physical abuse or assault, emotional abuse or psychological maltreatment, neglect or serious maltreatment, victim or witness to domestic violence, serious accident, illness or medical procedure, victim or witness to community violence, historical trauma, school violence, bullying, natural or manmade disasters, forced displacement, war, terrorism or political violence, military trauma, victim or witness to extreme personal or interpersonal violence, traumatic grief or separation, system induced trauma. These can also contribute to re-traumatization and secondary trauma. For more information pertaining to these specific types of trauma, please go to:

What is a trauma-informed model of care?

A trauma-informed approach is an approach, that realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery; that recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff and others involved with the system; that responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures and practices, and seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.

The six key principles of a trauma-informed approach are:

  1. Safety
  2. Trustworthiness and transparency
  3. Peer support
  4. Collaboration and mutuality
  5. Empowerment, voice and choice
  6. Cultural, historical and gender issues

Trauma-specific interventions are those that recognize the survivor's need to be respected, informed, connected and hopeful regarding their own recovery; they also recognize the interrelation between trauma and symptoms of trauma such as substance abuse, eating disorders, depression and anxiety, and the need to work in a collaborative way with survivors, family and friends of the survivor, and other human service agencies in a manner that will empower the survivors.

For more information see SAMHSA's site on trauma.

What does substance use have to do with trauma?

A number of sources provide statistics that demonstrate the intimate relationship between trauma and substance use disorders:

  • Studies have shown that up to 75% of individuals seeking treatment for a substance abuse disorder have been exposed to or experienced a traumatic event in their lives.
  • Accidents, illness or natural disasters translate to between 10 to 33 percent of survivors reporting alcohol abuse.
  • A diagnosis of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) increases the risk of developing alcohol abuse.
  • Even female trauma survivors who do not suffer PTSD face increased risk for an alcohol use disorder.
  • Male and female sexual abuse survivors experience a higher rate of alcohol and drug use disorders compared to those who have not survived such abuse.

For more information on the relationship between addiction and trauma, visit's article on the connection between trauma and addiction.

What is a peer-run organization?

A peer-run mental health or addiction recover organization is comprised of individuals with life experience of mental health and/or addiction recovery.