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Building Resilience with the Trauma-Informed Approach

By Jesse Kohler, CTIPP's Executive Director, and Laura Braden Quigley, Director of Communications and Outreach

When it comes to trauma-informed policy and practice, building resiliency goes beyond having the ability to withstand or endure hardship and includes incorporating collective wisdom, history, creativity, and other healthy coping skills.

In their 1998 study, Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control revealed a powerful correlation between ten specific forms of childhood trauma – called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – and behavioral, health, and social problems.

ACEs include ten specific forms of abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction, such as growing up in a household with domestic violence, substance use, or an incarcerated family member. ACEs and other forms of developmental adversity cause an oversupply of stress hormones in the bloodstream.

How does one deal with chronic stress and overwhelming adversity? Without supportive, trusting relationships or healthy coping opportunities, people are vulnerable to unhealthy coping skills. Though ACEs are not predictive at an individual level, across the population, high ACE prevalence is correlated with suicide, substance use, poor school and work performance, incarceration, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, to name a few.

The good news is that social scientists and practitioners have identified solutions.

Resiliency-promoting factors and adaptive capacities include:

  • Positive relationships and social support

  • Strong cultural identity

  • Equitable health, wellness, and support services

  • Access to resources (e.g., food, safe, stable housing)

  • Infrastructure, governance, and leadership

  • Economic investment and stability

  • Presence of and participation in community groups

  • Opportunities for success and achievement

  • Collective efficacy and empowerment

It’s important to note that calling people “resilient” without acknowledging the need for equitable support can perpetuate the oppressive and re-traumatizing status quo. How people find resilience despite structural inequalities and pejorative discourses that objectify and marginalize them is critical to a trauma-informed approach because we must acknowledge the ability of policy and institutions to block or unlock human potential.

As the nation’s leading organization advancing a community-led, trauma-informed, resilience-focused, and healing-centered approach to policies and practices, CTIPP aims to unlock public support and investment so that all communities have the resources to be healthy places where children, families, workers, leaders, and other community members have the opportunities and support necessary to thrive.

We also embrace a public health framework to address the social determinants of health that communities need to thrive. Grounded in NEAR – a body of scientific research that includes Neuroscience, Epigenetics, ACEs, and Resilience – our work informs a path forward in preventing and mitigating the effects of trauma on society at all levels.


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