Trauma-informed Service vs. Trauma-specific Treatment

Trauma-informed Service and Trauma-specific Treatment are two related, relatively new, and loosely-defined terms that are often confused. PCAB is a trauma-informed school that teaches trauma-informed bodywork, but it does not offer trauma-specific treatment, similar to how a company may abide by standards of equality and non-discrimination while its products or services are not directly related to such issues. Trauma-informed services or practices are often characterized by the 4 Rs: Realize, Recognize, Respond, and Resist Re-traumatization.

Any institution can be trauma-informed by taking neuroscientific and psychological knowledge about trauma and having it inform how it structures its policies and offers its services. Understanding the neuroscience of trauma is the first step to being trauma-informed because it offers a better understanding (realizing) of how to interpret and respond to cognitive and behavioral challenges faced by those who have experienced trauma.

While very few massage programs address trauma in their curriculum, PCAB includes specific sections devoted to understanding (realizing) the neuroscience of trauma, recognizing its signs, and effectively responding as massage therapists to clients with shock or developmental trauma. In addition, at an institutional level, PCAB emphasizes physical and emotional safety, and our staff is trained to embody compassionate, trauma-informed principles of seeing “undesirable behaviors” not as pathological but as strategies that were once adaptive for that individual at one time.

Furthermore, in our training we actively seek to resist re-traumatization, which can often occur inadvertently through touch and bodywork, and to promote recovery and resilience through mindfulness, agency, skillful touch, and loving presence. This point is key because re-traumatization has unfortunately been and continues to be an all-to-common result of well-intended somatic and spiritual practices, particularly those that are feeling/emotion-based.

In contrast to trauma-informed service, trauma-specific treatment is the use of psychotherapeutic methods to facilitate recovery from trauma and treat the consequences of it (e.g. disorders, drug addiction, etc.). Trauma-specific treatment would only be conducted by licensed psychotherapists, counselors, and other mental health professionals in clinical treatment contexts. Since PCAB is a massage therapy school, we do not teach or offer trauma-specific treatment.

To read more on this topic, please read the Massage and Fitness Magazine article Why Massage Therapy Needs to be Trauma-Informed, which was written by PCAB’s director, and check out the Transforming Trauma podcast interview with our director, which is also below.