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What is Trauma?

Drawing of a person sitting holding their knees, surrounded by scribbles and jumbled question marks.

Trauma is the lasting emotional response that often results from living through a distressing event. Experiencing a traumatic event can harm a person’s sense of safety, sense of self, and ability to regulate emotions and navigate relationships. Long after the traumatic event occurs, people with trauma can often feel shame, helplessness, powerlessness and intense fear.

Trauma has no boundaries regarding age, gender, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Trauma is a common experience for adults and children in American communities, and it is especially common in the lives of people with mental and substance use disorders. For this reason, the need to address trauma is increasingly seen as an important part of effective behavioral health care and an integral part of the healing and recovery process.

Source: Trauma | CAMHTrauma and Violence - What is Trauma and the Effects? | SAMHSA

Understanding Trauma

  • Resource Guide to Trauma-Informed Human Services | The Administration for Children and Families ( This guide provides human services leaders at the local, State, Tribal, and Territorial levels with information and resources on recent advances in our understanding of trauma, toxic stress, and executive functioning. The guide helps professionals learn about trauma-informed care and helps those currently engaged in trauma-informed work to improve their practice.
  • Trauma Initiatives & Resources - DBHIDS: List of trauma initiatives and resources from the City of Philadelphia.
  • How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime | Nadine Burke Harris | TED ( Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain.
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) ( Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity. CDC works to understand ACEs and prevent them.
  • Home ( PACEs Connection is a social network that recognizes the impact of a wide variety of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in shaping adult behavior and health, and that promotes trauma-informed and resilience-building practices and policies in all families, organizations, systems and communities. We support communities to accelerate the science of positive and adverse childhood experiences to solve our most intractable problems.
  • About PCAR | PCAR: The mission of the Pennsylvania Coalition to Advance Respect is to work to eliminate all forms of sexual violence and to advocate for the rights and needs of victims of sexual assault.
  • Understanding Child Trauma - What is Childhood Trauma? | SAMHSA: Recognize the signs of child traumatic stress and the impact that trauma may have on children. The infographic developed by SAMHSA’s National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCSTI) provides information on the prevalence and impact of traumatic events on children, and what actions can be taken to support children who experience traumatic events.

Resources for Trauma-Impacted Individuals

Post-Traumatic Growth

A person with ginger hair wearing a blue shirt with clouds on it hugging themselves, surrounded by flowers and greenery. Above them in white letters reads, Understanding what our trauma is can help us heal.

Post-traumatic growth, or PTG, is defined as "positive psychological changes experienced as a result of the struggle with trauma or highly challenging situations”. This phenomenon should be considered not as an alternative, but as a parallel process with respect to negative psychological consequences. PTG may feature positive changes in self-perception, interpersonal relationships and philosophy of life, leading to increased self-awareness and self-confidence, a more open attitude towards others, a greater appreciation of life and the discovering of new possibilities.

Source: Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) in the Frame of Traumatic Experiences - PMC (

More information on Post-Traumatic Growth:


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Harrisburg, PA 17103

Office Phone:  717.221.1022


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