Trauma-Informed Design

Trauma informed care works to alleviate and provide coping mechanisms for an individual’s trauma that results from an event, or series of events, or set of circumstances that was physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening. These events, or series of events, or circumstances often have lasting adverse effects on the individual’s ability to function as well as impacts to their mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual wellbeing.

Trauma informed design promotes safety, healing, and wellbeing by integrating the principles of trauma informed care into the design and construction of the spaces where care takes place. It is crucial to understand how the physical environment can affect a person’s identity, worth, and dignity and how it can foster and promote empowerment. There is a strong relationship between or physical environment and our emotional and physiological state such as mood, attitude, and behavior.

Trauma informed design takes many environmental factors into consideration when creating a space that will be inviting, safe, and foster healing. Some of those factors include:


It is important that the spaces do not appear institutional and sparse, while also not creating too much visual complexity.


Art can alleviate stress and improve mood and comfort level by providing a distraction or escape from an individuals emotional or psychological state. Natural views such as landscape imagery are associated with positivity and comfort. Paintings that are symbolic or have imagery that could trigger negative emotions or feelings should be avoided.


Light, cool colors such as blue, green and purple, should be used to create a calming, spatially open environment. Deeply hued and warm colors such as red, orange and yellow are more likely to arouse negative emotions.


Furniture can be used to create a sense of safety and independence alleviating negative emotions and perceived crowdedness. Avoid face-to-face seating across from a desk or table and rather encourage sitting corner-to-corner which is far less confrontational. Situate seating in waiting areas so that the individual is facing out from sheltering walls.

Lighting & Daylight

Natural light and rooms with windows, even if the blinds are closed, appear to be more open and inviting. Keep in mind that the quality of lighting can impact moved and perceived safety. Give individuals control over the lighting in the spaces they are in, increasing their sense of control and autonomy.


Plants and vegetation, whether live or decorative, connects individuals to the natural world which reduces stress, promotes peace and tranquility and enhances self-esteem.

Spatial Layout

Ensure that the space is perceived as open, fostering clear sightlines and very few barriers. This will mitigate the perceived sense of crowding easing emotional stress.

By employing principals of trauma informed care like those above, gives the design of a space the ability to aid in healing and comfort of individuals who have been faced with physical or emotional trauma.