The Traumatic Stress Institute fosters the transformation of organizations and service systems to trauma-informed care (TIC) through the delivery of whole-system consultation, professional training, coaching, and research.

Risking Connection®

Trauma Training

Framework for supporting survivors of traumatic experiences


As the centerpiece of our Whole-System Change Model, Risking Connection is not a stand-alone training. We know from experience that implementing trauma-informed care is complicated, and sustaining TIC over time is even more challenging.

What is Risking Connection® (RC) Training?

When a child depends on a caretaker for nurturance and love, they should not be taking a risk. If hurt and betrayed in those relationships, making future connections as a teenager or adult require risking disappointment at minimum, if not shame, loss, and further trauma. Many people in the human service system have been hurt and betrayed many times — by parents, by other caretakers, by the system itself.

To heal, a traumatized person must risk connecting with caring helpers who are different from those of their past. Yet, there are many reasons why people would not take that chance. However, over time and through the experience of RICH® relationships — those that demonstrate Respect, Information, Connection, and Hope — people can learn to put their trust in helpers and move beyond the wounds of the past.

Risking Connection® is an approach that:

  • Is a staff training model that organizations can adopt as a critical step toward TIC system change.
  • Uses a Train-the-Trainer model so organizations can sustain RC staff training indefinitely by having internal RC Trainers and Champions.
  • Benefits RC Trainers and Champions by providing certification and professional enrichment through annual consult groups and webinars.
  • Provides clients with connections, as they join an international community of other organizations using RC to implement TIC.

Risking Connection® training is unique in that:

  • It is a philosophy for providing services rather than a treatment technique.
  • It is aimed at organizational staff from all disciplines, roles, and levels of training.
  • It creates a common language among staff.
  • It asserts that relationships are the primary agent of change.
  • It stresses that treating traumatized people also poses risks to helpers – the risk of vicarious trauma. Therefore, respect for and care of both consumer and treater are viewed as vital.

Risking Connection® Adaptations

As part of our Whole-System Change Process, we offer optional Risking Connection® adaptations geared toward serving specific populations who have unique needs. Learn more about these offerings and the benefits of RC by clicking below.

Risking Connection for Foster Parents is a training model that adapts the philosophy and principles of the original Risking Connection curriculum for foster parents who are caring for youth with trauma histories. This curriculum is also appropriate for teaching biological or kinship parents.

As the child welfare system relies less on residential treatment to treat their most stressed children and youth, more emphasis is being place on foster care.  In order for this to be successful, it is critical that foster parents receive sufficient training and support to keep children in their homes, limit disruptions, and promote long term healing of trauma and attachment wounds.

This training enables RC Trainers to teach the RC for Foster Parents training at your agency or school. In 2019, the RC for Foster Parents training was reorganized into eight separate 90-minute modules that can stand alone or be taught as a series during a timeframe of your choosing. The training module topics are:

Module One: The Impact of Trauma

Module Two: The Trauma Framework

Module Three: Healing Relationships

Module Four: Strengthening Attachment, the Body and Brain, and Feeling Skills

Module Five: Symptoms as Adaptations

Module Six: Crisis Management

Module Seven: Noticing our Reactions and VT

Module Eight: The Restorative Approach

Understanding trauma, how it affects children, and how they can heal helps the foster family define problem behavior differently. They learn to see that the behavior is not about them, but instead an understandable adaptation to the child’s traumatic experiences.

The sessions include engaging and participatory learning modalities such as video, application exercise, small group activities, and discussion. Every effort has been made to make the material accessible to parents.

Risking Connection for IDD organizations is a training model that adapts the philosophy and principles of the original Risking Connection curriculum for those who serve the unique needs of clients with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities.

Trauma-informed care (TIC), widely viewed as a best practice in the human services, refers to a whole-system approach to addressing the reality of trauma in the people being supported through staff training, trauma-specific treatments, trauma-inform behavior support, and policy changes. Implementation of TIC has been shown to increase staff retention, decrease restraints, and decrease abuse allegations.

While statistics have shown that people with IDD are more likely to be victims of violent crimes or abuse, a systemic, chronic lack of funding and focus on this population means that few IDD organizations have been able to train their staff about trauma, address trauma in the people they support, or recognize how re-traumatization can happen in their programs. Our goal is to change this dynamic.

In 2019, the Traumatic Stress Institute made the strategic decision to bring its Whole-System Change Model to TIC to organizations and systems supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). After launching a Pilot TIC Learning Collaborative with 4 IDD organizations across the US, TSI is now offering its training and consulting services to IDD organizations more broadly.

Whether you are an organization that is just beginning to make the shift to trauma-informed care (TIC) or you have been working on an agency culture shift for a long time, Risking Connection (RC) has many benefits:

  • RC is a core intervention for system-wide implementation of trauma-informed care
  • RC is a training model vetted and refined over 20 years of use
  • RC provides personal and individualized service to organizations
  • RC serves as an overarching framework for understanding trauma. For organizations doing treatment, the framework provides a rubric within which evidenced-based treatments fit
  • Via the RC train-the-trainer model, an organization can sustain trauma-informed care over time
  • RC is a user-friendly model designed to be embedded within an organization’s professional development offerings
  • RC leads to concrete outcomes including increase in staff attitudes favorable to trauma-informed care, decreased restraints and seclusions, decreased staff turnover, increase in knowledge about trauma, and decreases in serious incident reports
  • When an organization adopts RC, they join a community of over 85 organizations working together to implement and embed trauma-informed care