Trauma-Informed Practices

An Introduction to Trauma-Informed Practices 


CPI is a member of the Campus-wide Trauma-Informed Practices (TIP) advisory group. On May 10th, members of TIP submitted this report and orally addressed some of the key take-aways. The following is a copy of the senate report.


Research indicates that trauma is prevalent in students conducting post-secondary studies and demonstrates that the severity of trauma symptoms is significantly linked to social issues such as poverty, unemployment, racism, and gender inequity (DeRiviere, 2019; Read et al., 2011). In the contemporary context, we witness how disproportionate environmental, social, and political stressors which often result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), have only worsened since the initial spread of COVID-19 in 2019 (Etowa et al, 2021). In Canada, 76% of adults report trauma exposure in their lifetime, with 9.2% meeting the criteria for PTSD (Government of Nova Scotia, 2015). For example, in 2018, 44% of women surveyed federally reported experiencing intimate partner violence in their lifetime (Government of Canada, 2022, para. 13).  

These numbers are compounded for equity deserving groups, as research indicates that 60% of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit women in Canada have experienced some form of partner violence in their lifetime (Heidinger, 2021, p. 4).  Further, research indicates that university students are at risk, “with as many as 50% of college students being exposed to a potentially traumatizing event in their first year of college” (Galatzer Levy et al., 2012 cited in Johnson & Gianvito, 2022, p. 6). This is combined with theory on trauma and post-secondary education, which suggests, “the university can be a socially toxic environment that produces trauma through its policies” (Bimm & Feldman, 2020, n/p). 

Importantly, theories in Trauma-Informed Practice (TIP) position trauma not as an individualized experience (solely psychological barrier), but rather as a product of institutionalized oppression (social barrier). For example, Haines (2019) defines trauma as “an experience, series of experiences, and/or impacts from social conditions, that break or betray our inherent need for safety, belonging, and dignity” (p. 74).  

Along with this shift from the individual to the social, a trauma-informed approach acknowledges the vast and interconnected nature of trauma and being significantly rooted in institutional oppression. Therefore, integrating trauma-informed practice at the institutional level requires “fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, and seeks to actively resist re-traumatization” (SAMHSA, 2014, as cited in Venet, 2021, p. 5).  

Six principles of Trauma-Informed Practice (TIP) 

There are six principles to a trauma-informed practice recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Center for Preparedness and Response (CPR), in collaboration with the Substance Abyse and Mental Health Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Center for Trauma-Informed Care (NCTIC), they are: 

  1. Safety 
  2. Trustworthiness and transparency 
  3. Peer Support 
  4. Collaboration and mutuality 
  5. Empowerment, voice, and choice 
  6. Acknowledgement of cultural, historical, and gender issues. 

Why is this so important now? 

  • There is an express connection to strategic priorities laid out in Brock University’s Academic Plan: 
  • Priority 4: Equitable, Diverse, and Inclusive 
    • Specifically, embedded under this priority is 4d: “Develop resources and supports for educators grounded in anti-racist and trauma-informed pedagogies that sustain inclusive and harassment-free learning environments” (p. 14); 
  • Priority 5: Accessible, flexible and customizable 
  • The culture of education has shifted, and we need to address it 
  • Connection to inclusive spaces & Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization (EDID) – rates of trauma are significantly higher for students from equity deserving groups 
  • Empowering students to be more engaged in the learning process 

TIP shows up in all facets of the university experience 

Trauma-informed practice shows up in all facets of the university experience including: 

  • Departmental policies 
  • Medical policies 
  • Accommodations 
  • Grading and assessment 
  • Campus services and supports 
  • University policies, procedures, and practices 
  • Classroom environment 
  • Course content 
  • Pedagogy and course design 

How can you integrate TIP into your course design/teaching practice? 

Authentic assessments 

  • Flexible grade submission 
  • Soft and hard deadlines 
  • Ungrading/self-reflexive grading process 

Changing the culture in the classroom 

  • Transparency and collaboration 
  • Empower versus power over 

Think about a culture of wellbeing and success 

  • Self-care plan for students 
  • Be ready with resources 
  • Content warnings for difficult content 

Pre-course surveys (check in email before term) 

  • What are you looking forward to learning? 
  • What do you think would be most difficult? 
  • In what ways can I help support your learning? 


Bimm, M. & Feldman, M. (2020). Towards a femme pedagogy, or making space for trauma in the classroom. MAI: Feminism and Visual Culture. 

DeRiviere, L. (2019). How can community-university engagement address family violence prevention? One child at a time. Aboriginal Policy Studies, 7(2), 3-28. Retrieved from 

Etowa, J., Hyman, I., Dabone, C., Mbagwu, I., Ghose, B., Sano, Y., Osman, M., & Mohamoud, H. (2021). Strengthening the Collection and Use of Disaggregated Data to Understand and Monitor the Risk and Burden of COVID-19 Among Racialized Populations. Canadian Studies in Population, 48(2-3), 201–216. 

Galatzer-Levy, I. R., Burton, C. L., & Bonanno, G. A. (2012). Coping flexibility, potentially traumatic life events, and resilience: A prospective study of college student adjustment. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 31(6), 542– 567.  

Government of Canada. (2018, February 2). Trauma and violence-informed approaches to policy and practice. Government of Canada. Retrieved from  

Government of Nova Scotia, IWK Health Centre, Nova Scotia Health Authority. (2015, May). Trauma-Informed approaches: An introduction and discussion guide for health and social service providers. Retrieved from  

Heidinger, L. (2021). Intimate partner violence: Experiences of First Nations, Métis and Inuit women in Canada, 2018. Juristat: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 1-21. From  

Johnson, N and Gianvito, I. (2022). Cultivating trauma-informed spaces in education: Promising practices manual. 

Read. J. P., Ouimette, P., White, J., Colder, C., & Farrow, S. (2011). Rates of DSM-IV-TR trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder among newly matriculated college students. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 3(2), 148-156. doi: 10.1037/a0021260  

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). A treatment improvement protocol: Trauma-Informed care in behavioural health services. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved on November 11, 2022, from  

Venet, A. S. (2021). Equity-centered Trauma-Informed education. W. W. Norton & Company. 

Additional Resource 

Costa, K. (2022). Trauma Fundamental for Higher Educators