Trauma-Informed Approach

Trauma-Informed Approach

A trauma-informed approach can be implemented in any type of service setting or organization and is distinct from trauma-specific interventions or treatments that are designed specifically to address the consequences of trauma and to facilitate healing.

Six Key Principles of a Trauma-Informed Approach

A trauma-informed approach reflects adherence to six key principles rather than a prescribed set of practices or procedures. These principles may be generalizable across multiple types of settings, although terminology and application may be setting- or sector-specific:

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

From our perspective, it is critical to promote the linkage to recovery and resilience for those individuals and families impacted by trauma. In fostering recovery, services and supports that are trauma-informed build on the best evidence available and individual and family engagement, empowerment, and collaboration.

Trauma-Specific Interventions

Trauma-specific intervention programs generally recognize the following:

  • The survivor’s need to be respected, informed, connected, and hopeful regarding their own recovery
  • The interrelation between trauma and symptoms of trauma such as substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety
  • The need to work in a collaborative way with survivors, family and friends of the survivor, and other human services agencies in a manner that will empower survivors and consumers

Adaptive Internal Relational (AIR) Network Model


Adaptive Internal Relational (AIR) Network therapy is a neuro-developmental, competency-based model of therapy. AIR model is primarily oriented towards giving people the freedom to engage fully with themselves and in relationships with others. Clients who live with complex neuro-dissociative states, a developmental-neurological organization of experience, have very different relational and therapeutic needs than those who have trauma histories without more complex types of dissociation. Most of the AIR Resourcing Strategies initially focus on building clients’ abilities to develop an internal stance where there is at least a neutral noticing and awareness.

An understanding of developmental neurology and information processing theory is critical to an understandingnormal and adaptive process allows people to work through critical or traumatic incidents. Intense, complex or repeated traumas can interrupt this adaptive process such that trauma patterns and reactive or Core Survival Networks get encoded and solidified over time.

AIR Resourcing Strategy sequences that meet the needs of clients who have more complex symptoms and neuro-dissociative states.

  • Containing traumatic memory while working to bring dissociated aspects of self into relationship with the Interactive Adult Awareness/Most Resourced Self.
  • Understanding of developmental neurology and information processing theory
  • Learning skills for present orientation including the ability to hold multiple perspectives.
  • Learning ways to separate selves from the memories, conditioning and programming that they have experienced.
  • Understanding the development and usefulness of the Core Survival Networks as well as the evolution over a life time.
  • Experiencing competency based traumatic memory processing.

Trauma affects how networks of somatic experience, emotion, thought and perception are formed and neurologically embedded.  For all people, regardless of trauma, neural networks form in a developmental sequence and are impacted by environmental and relational experiences and resources. Human competence, potential and neuroplasticity are all foundational assumptions of the Adaptive Internal Relational (AIR) Network Model.

Therapeutic Relational Stance

We focus on building and resourcing AIR Networks, creating new possibilities of internal relationship. Through the internal process of building neurological bridges, parts of self learn to connect and help each other and decisions are made through the Interactive Adult Awareness/Most Resourced Self.  These connection and decision processes, built through AIR Networking Resourcing Strategies, develop stronger abilities to regulate emotional, sensory and somatic arousal in the subcortical, brainstem and limbic structures, and somatosensory areas of the brain.  Coming back to this focus over and over again within a gracious and competency-based stance allows clients the freedom to build the internal structures that will serve them in their lives and relationships beyond the therapeutic context.

The Arc of Therapy

Phase One
Creating Context and Resource Stabilization

During this first phase we focus on client resilience, competence and understanding of their core survival strategies.  The concept of Interactive Adult Awareness/Most Resourced Self becomes a central part of how we help clients to interact with themselves and the therapist during sessions.  Throughout this phase we help the client differentiate and label P/parts, memory and programming/conditioning, which increases internal safety.  Containment of memories away from parts is a primary tool of this phase.  Assessment of existing adaptive networks is also ongoing.  A detailed history of what created the complex dissociative states may or may not be gathered at this point based on a client’s abilities to stay present and stable while talking about traumatic experiences or childhood memories.

Phase Two
Developing Networks and AIR Network Resourcing

Adaptive Internal Relational Networks are neurological structures and relational systems that allow a client to be in a present oriented relationship with all of who they are at any given time.  A physiological state of awareness and cognitive alertness is a crucial component to building AIR networks. The Interactive Adult Awareness/Most Resourced Self/Most Resourced Self, standing in ‘real time’ works with the Adaptive Internal Relational Networks in a fluid and dynamic system that is always moving and always changing.  This intentional weaving together of the Interactive Adult Awareness/Most Resourced Self/Most Resourced Self and the AIR Networks is foundational to clients’ sense of competency and mastery in their own healing and recovery.

Phase Three
Future Resilience and/or Memory Processing

Clients may or may not choose to do memory work.  Some people are able to keep memories contained without intrusions into daily life. Some choose working with memories at a later time.

Clients’ owning this decision further enhances a framework of free will and choice. Positive experiences of self are reinforced through AIR Network Resourcing Strategies as a component of Future Resilience.