Organizational Certification in Trauma-Informed Care is a Journey, not a Destination

What is a Trauma-Informed Organization?

"A program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery; recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system; and responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, and seeks to actively resist re-traumatization."


What are the Criteria for Organizational TIC Certification?

In order to be certified, an organization must meet all of the following criteria.

  1. The organization’s leadership must be committed to TIC — Leadership must:
    1. Have an understanding of TIC (as described in SAMHSA Tip 57 and as demonstrated in their implementation of the other criteria)
    2. Have a written commitment to TIC
    3. Have a written commitment to a TIC culture change plan
    4. Have a TIC ambassador 
    5. Allocate resources appropriate to the phase of the culture change plan
      1. Including ongoing leadership attention
    6. Handle egregious things appropriately, if they come up
      *Egregious = things for which the organization would take a public reputation hit if the situation were widely advertised and/or are illegal, immoral, or harmful (emotionally or physically)
      *Appropriately = acknowledging, prioritizing in the context of the overall TIC culture change plan, dealing with the instance, and addressing the root causes so that it won’t happen any more.
    7. Provide requested information in support of the certification and/or complaint processes.  
  2. The organization must have a TIC culture change plan and must be making progress
    1. There is a documented plan for the upcoming year and
      1. It shows who, what, and when
      2. It includes key activities (including Training),
        such as the ones identified in the TI Organization Change Manual.
      3. It makes business sense
      4. It makes TIC sense (as defined by Tip 57 and other research)
      5. It achieves measurable objectives
      6. It collects unbiased measurement data about the completion of those objectives
    2. Plan steps from the previous year have been completed
    3. Before and After assessments show a positive change, no backsliding

The Road Map:

Along The Way:

The award of, and maintenance of, certification is contingent upon an organization's demonstrating progress on their TIC journey and maintaining a pre-established level of approved training for existing and new staff as well as an ongoing Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) program

We recognize that not every organization is coming from the same place and that some may be much farther along in the TIC Implementation process. Given this reality, it’s entirely possible for organizations to be observed to be certified at differing stages of trauma-informed practice.

Key Principles

Throughout the organization, staff and the people they serve, whether children or adults, feel physically and psychologically safe; the physical setting is safe and interpersonal interactions promote a sense of safety defined by those served is a high priority.

Organizational operations and decisions are conducted with transparency with the goal of building and maintaining trust with clients and family members, among staff, and others involved in the organization.

Peer support and mutual self-help are key vehicles for establishing safety and hope, building trust, enhancing collaboration, and utilizing their stories and lived experience to promote recovery and healing. The term “Peers” refers to individuals with lived experiences of trauma, or in the case of children this may be family members of children who have experienced traumatic events and are key caregivers in their recovery. Peers have also been referred to as “trauma survivors.”

Importance is placed on partnering and the leveling of power differences between staff and clients and among organizational staff from clerical and housekeeping personnel, to professional staff to administrators, that healing happens in relationships and in the meaningful sharing of power and decision-making. The organization recognizes that everyone has a role to play in a trauma-informed approach. As one expert stated: “one does not have to be a therapist to be therapeutic.”

Throughout the organization and among the clients served, individual’s strengths and experiences are recognized and built upon. The organization fosters a belief in the primacy of the people served, in resilience, and in the ability of individuals, organizations, and communities to heal and promote recovery from trauma. The organization understands that the experience of trauma may be a unifying aspect in the lives of those who run the organization, who provide the services, and/ or who come to the organization for assistance and support. 

The trauma-informed organization actively moves past cultural stereotypes and biases  (e.g. based on race, and ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, religion, gender identity, geography, etc. )offers, access to gender responsive services; leverages the healing value of traditional cultural connections; incorporates policies protocols, and processes that are responsive to the racial, ethic and cultural needs of individuals served; and recognizes and addresses historical trauma. 

Implementation Domains

The leadership and governance of a trauma-informed organization support and invest in implementing and sustaining a trauma-informed approach. There is an identified point of responsibility within the organization to lead and oversee this work and peer voices are included.

There are written policies and protocols establishing a trauma-informed approach as an essential part of the organizational mission. Organizational procedures and cross-agency protocols reflect trauma-informed principles.

The organization ensures that the physical environment promotes a sense of safety.

People in recovery, trauma survivors, consumers, and family members receiving services have significant involvement, voice, and meaningful choice at all levels and in all areas of organizational functioning (e.g., program design, implementation, service delivery, quality assurance, cultural competence, access to trauma-informed peer support, workforce development, and evaluation).

Collaboration across sectors is built on a shared understanding of trauma and principles of a trauma-informed approach. While a trauma focus is not the stated mission of different service sectors, understanding how trauma impacts those served and integrating this knowledge across service sectors is critical.

Interventions are based on the best available empirical evidence and science, are culturally appropriate, and reflect principles of a trauma-informed approach. Trauma screening and assessment are an essential part of the work. Trauma-specific interventions are acceptable, effective, and available for individuals and families seeking services. When trauma-specific services are not available within the organization, there is a trusted, effective referral system in place that facilitates connecting individuals with appropriate trauma treatment.

Continuous training on trauma, peer support, and how to respond to trauma is available for all staff. A human resource system incorporates trauma-informed principles in hiring, supervision, and staff evaluation; procedures are in place to support staff with trauma histories and/or those experiencing significant secondary traumatic stress from exposure to highly stressful material.

There is ongoing assessment, tracking, and monitoring of trauma-informed principles and effective use of evidence-based and trauma-specific screening, assessments, and treatment.

Financing structures are designed to support a trauma-informed approach which includes resources for staff training, development of appropriate facilities, establishment of peer support, and evidence-supported trauma screening, assessment, services, and interventions.

Measures and evaluation designs used to evaluate service or program implementation and effectiveness reflect an understanding of trauma and appropriate trauma-research instruments.


If you’re concerned about an organization's lack of compliance with TIC certification criteria and adherence to TI practices in the workplace or community, you may report your concern using the form below and a TIC Training Center representative will respond after a review of the complaint.

Your identity will be protected and preserving your privacy will be paramount.

If the complaint is substantiated and determined to reflect non-compliance with the fidelity of our certification criteria, we will determine a course of action for a voluntary, supportive remediation plan.

Should the remediation process prove unsuccessful, or the organization unwilling to participate, steps will be taken, up to and including decertification.

All form fields are required.


Our mission is to spread the concepts and practices of TIC to as many people as possible - to get it off the therapist’s couch, if you will.

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