The Roots of Trauma-Informed Care: Love Thy Neighbor?

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Trauma-informed Care (TIC) is a paradigm that has gained much traction in medical and human services settings over the past decade, motivated by the recent research findings that many poor physical, mental, and behavioral outcomes are more likely in individuals who experienced trauma in childhood (Adverse Childhood Experiences [ACEs]) such as abuse and neglect. The TIC paradigm, offered as novel, seems to be a secular repackaging of the biblical mandate to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31; Gal 5:14). The central tenets of TIC include feeling empathy with and demonstrating empathy toward others in their suffering; understanding that having experienced past traumatic events changes a person physically, mentally, and emotionally; that efforts should be made to prevent retraumatization; and that every person is valuable and has strengths that can be cultivated.

Empathy, or feeling what other feel, is taught in Rom 12:15, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep,” and Gal 6:2, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Having an understanding of the pain experienced by those who have experienced trauma and caring for that suffering part of the body is clearly a biblical concept. Paul states, in 1 Cor 12:25-26, “This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.” This supports the emphasis on empathy as well. The ACE Study which sparked the development of the TIC paradigm, highlights the likely impacts of adversity on children who have been treated unjustly. Throughout the Bible, those who follow God’s principles are instructed to care for the child, the weak, and those experiencing injustice (Isa 1:17, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”). Finally, in teaching the tenets of TIC, we foster a belief that everyone has value and we should help each other to capitalize on strengths. Hebrews 10:24 echoes this by saying, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.” How do we know people have strengths to be capitalized upon? Rom 12:6 says, “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well,” and 1 Pet 4:10 says, “Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good servants of God’s various gifts of grace.” ​

I and a colleague have been teaching TIC principles to health care professionals and human service workers over the past two years. We have trained almost 2,000 people in these concepts. It has been embraced like nothing I have seen in my three decades in the psychological and counseling profession. Is it that our secularized society is hungry for biblical wisdom? Is it that He who created us knows best what we need? I can’t say, but our current research seeks to verify effects as organizations implement TIC.


St. Louis, MO

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