Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) is an attachment-based, trauma informed intervention that is used primarily for children who have experienced adversity, early harm, toxic stress, and trauma. Because of a child’s history of trauma, it can be difficult for them to trust the adults in their life which can result in problem behaviors. TBRI has shown to be effective for children who have experienced trauma as it can be used by caregivers, can be applied in any environment, and is respectful of the trauma a child has experienced.
TBRI has three principles that are implemented to focus on the needs of the child. These principles are the Empowering Principles, Connecting Principles, and the Correcting Principles.
The Empowering Principles
The empowering principles address two types of needs for a child: the environmental needs and the physiological needs. These principles aim to help children to feel safe in their world, allowing them to make better choices in their relationships and reactions.
The environmental needs of a child for TBRI can look like a daily routine and predictability throughout the day. Unpredictability can be stressful on a child who has experienced trauma so ensuring they have a daily routine can help reduce anxiety throughout the day. Being mindful and prepared for transitions between tasks is also important to a child’s environmental needs, ie. Giving consistent warnings of needing to get ready for bed, needing to clean up toys, or changing activities during a school day. It also means assessing the amount of support they may need throughout the day. A focus on making this practical for the caregiver in the context of today’s world will be incorporated into your treatment because let’s face it – parenting can be hard.
The physiological needs of child for TBRI can look like making sure the child is eating snacks and drinking to promote their emotional regulation, getting enough sleep, and making sure they are having enough physical activity during the day. Activities such as walking, riding a bike, swinging, or playing tag have been shown to boost calming neurochemicals and reduce stress neurochemicals. There is a balance, however as fatigue can lead to agitation and problem behaviors so it is important to understand when the child may have had enough. We can support you as you work with your child and your own realities to create these supports in your child’s life.
The Connecting Principles
The connecting principles work to address the relationship needs of a child. When a child experiences trauma they may respond by withdrawing into themselves or becoming highly alert to potential danger. The connecting principles use mindfulness and engagement to address these tendencies by engaging the child while attending to the child’s feelings of threat and fear. These principles can be of great benefit to parent and child as they build or rebuild relationships strained by child dysregulation or family stress.
The Correcting Principles
The TBRI Corrective Principles looks to build on the child’s social competency from the groundwork of the Empowering and Connecting Principles. The correcting principles are based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which is one of the most effective treatments for children with depression, aggression, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some strategies of the correcting principles are emotional regulation, life value terms, choices in discipline, and allowing the child a re-do to practice appropriate responses. Again, therapists will work with the child directly as well as the caregivers to teach, model and refine these skills. The resulting outcome is a child who is able to engage more effectively in relationships and behaviors across settings.
Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) can be beneficial for children who have experienced early trauma, abuse, neglect, or high levels of stress. Caregivers love it too! The Empowering, Connecting, and Correcting Principles represent a wide lens of interacting with children who have disturbances impacting their relationships and behavior problems. Therefore, TBRI has the potential to create a positive impact on children who have experienced complex trauma.