top of page
  • Writer's pictureAlina Halonen

Understanding the Differences Between Trauma-Trained, Trauma-Informed, and Trauma-Aware Therapists

By Alina P. Halonen, LPCC, CCTP

trauma trained vs. trauma aware therapist

Embarking on a journey to address and heal from trauma is a courageous step towards reclaiming one's well-being. When seeking therapy, it is essential to find a therapist who can provide the necessary support and expertise. Within the realm of trauma therapy, several terms have emerged, including "trauma-trained," "trauma-informed," and "trauma-aware" therapists. This blog post, from the perspective of a trauma-trained therapist, aims to shed light on the distinctions between these approaches and provide guidance for clients seeking effective trauma healing. It will be supported by relevant research, citations, and references.

Trauma-Trained Therapists

Trauma-trained therapists have undergone specialized training and education in trauma-focused interventions and techniques. They have acquired a comprehensive knowledge of trauma theory, trauma reactions, and evidence-based therapeutic interventions through formal education, advanced degrees, certifications, or specific training programs. These therapists possess the skills necessary to identify trauma-related symptoms and provide targeted treatment approaches based on their expertise and training.

Trauma-Informed Therapists

Trauma-informed therapists may not have received formal trauma-specific training but possess a foundational understanding of trauma and its impact on individuals' mental health. They approach therapy with sensitivity, recognizing that trauma can be a significant factor in clients' lives. These therapists integrate trauma awareness into their practice, ensuring that their therapeutic approach considers the potential effects of trauma on clients' well-being.

Trauma-Aware Therapists

Trauma-aware therapists, similar to trauma-informed therapists, may not have specialized training in trauma interventions. However, they acknowledge the presence of trauma in clients' lives and maintain an awareness of its potential impact on therapy outcomes. These therapists demonstrate empathy, sensitivity, and a willingness to adapt their practice to accommodate clients who have experienced trauma.

Key Factors to Consider

Qualifications and Training: When selecting a therapist to address trauma, inquire about their formal education, degrees, certifications, and specialized training in trauma therapy. Look for therapists who have completed recognized trauma-focused programs, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), or Somatic Experiencing (SE).

Experience: Consider therapists who have experience working with trauma survivors. Experienced therapists have likely encountered various trauma presentations, deepening their understanding of the nuances and complexities associated with trauma recovery.

Client-Centered Approach: A trauma-informed therapist should prioritize creating a safe and supportive environment for their clients. Seek therapists who emphasize a client-centered approach, involving clients in their treatment planning and empowering them to make choices aligned with their needs and preferences. Building trust and rapport is crucial in trauma therapy, and a client-centered approach fosters a collaborative and respectful therapeutic relationship.

Evidence-Based Practices: Look for therapists who utilize evidence-based trauma interventions supported by scientific research. These interventions have been rigorously tested and proven effective in addressing trauma-related symptoms. Examples include prolonged exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, and narrative exposure therapy.

Ongoing Professional Development: Inquire about therapists' participation in workshops, conferences, and supervision focused on trauma-informed care. Continued professional development demonstrates a commitment to staying updated with the latest advancements in trauma research and therapy.


In the pursuit of healing from trauma, finding a qualified and competent therapist is paramount. Understanding the distinctions between trauma-trained, trauma-informed, and trauma-aware therapists is crucial for effective trauma-informed care. By considering factors such as qualifications, experience, a client-centered approach, evidence-based practices, and ongoing professional development, individuals can make informed choices when selecting a therapist for their trauma-healing journey. Remember, healing from trauma is possible, and with the right therapist, individuals can find resilience, empowerment, and a path to a healthier future.


Courtois, C. A., & Ford, J. D. (2020). Treating complex traumatic stress disorders: An evidence-based guide. Guilford Press.

Hopper, E. K., Bassuk, E. L., & Olivet, J. (2010). Shelter from the storm: Trauma-informed care in homelessness services settings. The Open Health Services and Policy Journal, 3(2), 80-100.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2014). SAMHSA's concept of trauma and guidance for a trauma-informed approach. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4884. Rockville, MD: SAMHSA.

van der Kolk, B. A. (2015). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Penguin Books.

Please note that the references provided are for informational purposes only and should not replace professional advice or guidance from a qualified therapist or mental health professional.

© Alina P. Halonen, LPCC, CCTP 2023. All Rights Reserved.

bottom of page