Module 4: Understanding Trauma and Intimate Partner Violence


The goal of this training program is to help service providers understand the linkages between IPV, mental health, and substance use.  Service providers are not always aware of clients’ trauma histories, and how their current experiences of IPV may impact their mental health and substance use. Notwithstanding this, what is helpful is for service providers to respond to clients in an effective, trauma-informed manner that contextualizes IPV and the resultant impact on women’s mental health and substance use. As part of the foundation knowledge, this module will provide an overview of common categories of trauma and the ways in which these experiences can impact women’s current functioning. Expanding service providers’ understandings of trauma and its implications in terms of supporting women who have experienced IPV is an effective way of improving the capacity of service systems to more effectively address the trauma-related issues of women. 

Learning Objectives (i.e., after this module, you should be able to:) 

  1. Describe what is meant by trauma.
  2. Describe the different types and categories of trauma.
  3. Define and describe the three E’s of trauma.
  4. Understand the connections between trauma and IPV and the impact of IPV on mental health and substance use.
  5. Understand the impact of IPV on relationships within a socio-political context.
  6. Understand the relationship between trauma and Indigenous people and communities.
  7. Describe the concepts of trauma recovery and resilience.

Guide to the Readings 

There are numerous resources available online that provide readers with a thorough introduction to trauma-informed practices. Some resources may categorize trauma differently; however, the basic concepts and ideas are similar. The two resources published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) provide the reader with an excellent and thorough foundation to trauma knowledge including trauma definitions, the different types of trauma, and the impact of trauma on particular populations. The Trauma Toolkit, published by Klinic, adds in important pieces for the Manitoba context. Clearly, the concept of Historical Trauma is particularly relevant for Indigenous people, given our country’s history, and it is important for service providers to be aware of this context when working with Indigenous women. These are important considerations when working with immigrant and refugee women as well.  

Towards a conceptual framework: Trauma, Family Violence and Health provides the reader with an ecological framework in which to situate and understand the relationship between IPV, trauma and health. As you go through the reading, think about how you understand this particular topic, and perhaps how your own attitudes, knowledge, and beliefs have been influenced by ideas at each of the different socio-ecological levels. What did you learn about IPV from your family? From school? From the broader society? For example, what are some harmful ideas about IPV that are covertly reinforced through societal messaging? How had you thought about the relationship between IPV and health prior to this reading? Did your ideas about these relationships shift after reading about the health impacts of IPV? What might you think differently about the next time you are in a health setting and there are women sitting in the waiting room? 

The Hidden Burdens: a Review of Intergenerational, Historical and Complex Trauma, Implications for Indigenous Families, contextualizes the content from the other readings. It provides a cogent summary of the contemporary issues that impact Indigenous families and places them in a historical context that clearly answers the trauma-informed question of “What happened to you?” 

How to Proceed 

Once you complete all six steps, proceed to Module 5.