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Papers of the Week

2019 Jun

Arch Rehabil Res Clin Transl



Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trauma-Informed Care in Rehabilitation Clinical Practice.


Ranjbar N, Erb M
Arch Rehabil Res Clin Transl. 2019 Jun; 1(1-2):100003.
PMID: 33543043.


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) contribute to physical, behavioral, and mental health issues throughout the lifespan and, because of their prevalence, constitute a significant public health issue. Practitioners in all health care disciplines need to be knowledgeable about ACEs and prepared to address them. ACEs can contribute to conditions that lead patients to seek rehabilitation care, and therefore a framework is needed that enables rehabilitation professionals to understand the effects of ACEs and how to discuss them with patients. This article summarizes ACE research and its clinical relevance, presents an overview of the related topic of trauma-informed care, and introduces rehabilitation professionals to practical tools for incorporating ACE- and trauma-informed care into clinical practice. There is growing acknowledgement across all health care disciplines of the impact of ACEs. ACEs are understood as stressful, potentially traumatic events that may have lasting negative effects on health and well-being. Since the 1990s, when landmark research found striking associations between early life stress and adversity and a wide range of chronic physical, behavioral, and mental health issues, international attention to ACEs as a major public health issue has grown.1, 2 ACE-related research has identified strong correlations between chronic disease, stress, and prior experience. Eighty-six percent of health care dollars in the United States are spent on chronic diseases, and a population health strategy should include empowering, person-centered, low-risk, low-cost, self-management skill-building practices to help patients manage the stress response. Though a relevant consideration for all care provision, the biopsychosocial framework may be particularly important for understanding and working with chronic health conditions.4, 5, 6, 7 For example, chronic pain affects 116 million in the United States and may be a key force in driving patients to seek rehabilitation services. Patients need their providers to skillfully and comprehensively navigate the intersection of mental, emotional, and physical components of their healing process. Given the prevalence of ACEs and their potential contribution to chronic pain, among other conditions, rehabilitation professionals should be prepared to address ACEs in the clinical setting as a possible underlying contributor to the condition for which treatment is sought. This article provides an overview of ACEs research and the health effects that can result from ACEs and introduces a trauma-informed practical guide for rehabilitation professionals to use in clinical encounters.