What is trauma-informed?

“Trauma-informed services do no harm i.e. they do not re-traumatise or blame victims for their efforts to manage their traumatic reactions, and they embrace a message of hope and optimism that recovery is possible. In trauma-informed services, trauma survivors are seen as unique individuals who have experienced extremely abnormal situations and have managed as best they could”. (Dr Cathy Kezelman) [1]

Complex trauma develops from repeated exposure in childhood, to physical, sexual or emotional abuse, humiliation, violations of trust and breaches of care, particularly by those who should have provided safety. People exposed to this kind of treatment continue to be impacted into adulthood and throughout their lives. So too, the trauma and grief of forced separation of a parent and child can have severe life-long impacts.

Every day, people living with the impacts of trauma have interactions, in all kinds of situations, that could potentially trigger distressing memories or flashbacks to traumatic experiences in their past. Such triggers create a neurological response, and the body responds as though the person is experiencing those past terrifying situations, in that moment. In these instances, people may become angry, abusive, panicked or non-compliant.

It may seem to you that the behaviour is unreasonable or irrational, that the person is just being stubborn. But that is not the case. Severe emotional trauma alters a child’s developing brain so profoundly that it can remain in a heightened fight, flight or freeze state, which remains consistent into that person’s adult life. These responses, therefore, are instinctual and involuntary.

That is not to say that people who have experienced these types of trauma cannot go on to have happy relationships, lives and successful careers. They most certainly can and do. Everyone is different, and can experience the impacts in different ways. People can learn and apply techniques to help them manage the physiological responses. The outcomes for adults after childhood trauma cover the whole spectrum, depending on a wide range of influences and circumstances. For example, better outcomes are more likely if they have supportive people in their lives, if they have access to support services, or if they have a skill or talent to focus on and enjoy. Other determining factors might be whether there are underlying physical or psychological conditions, the type and length of exposure to the trauma, the age the trauma began and ended, and so on.

Learning more about childhood trauma, complex trauma and PTSD will not only help the people Wattle Place assists. Anyone who suffered trauma in childhood, particularly ongoing or horrific abuse or threat, is likely to be impacted throughout life, due to the nature of childhood trauma.

Being more aware of trauma, and useful ways to manage the reactions, responses and behaviours stemming from it, will improve your ability to respond effectively in situations that may otherwise be very challenging, and achieve far more positive outcomes for you and, importantly, the person with whom you are interacting.


[1] NSW Government 2020 What is trauma-informed care?


Further Information and Trauma-informed training


Blueknot Foundation: National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma 

We Al Li  

Australian Psychological Society (APS) Online learning
As part of the response to the Forced Adoption Inquiry, the APS was funded to provide targeted training to it’s members, in the treatment of people impacted by forced adoptions.