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An Introduction to Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®)

Trust-Based Relational Intervention

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) is a care model designed to help meet relational and developmental needs of children and youth impacted by trauma. TBRI considers the whole child—his or her brain, biology, behavior, body, and beliefs—and provides parents and caregivers with practical tools and insight to help their child(ren) reach his or her highest potential. And, perhaps most integral, TBRI has connection at its core—the truth that connection builds trust, and trust builds healthy relationships. 

Developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross of the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development (KPICD) at TCU, the TBRI model is built upon three guiding principles

Connecting Principles: Create connections that disarm fear, gain trust, and enhance learning.

Empowering Principles: Strengthen learning and regulation by meeting a child’s physical and environmental needs. 

Correcting Principles: Shape beliefs and behaviors effectively, so children feel safe, protected, and empowered. 

Children who have experienced complex trauma need parents and caregivers who are insightful, prepared, equipped, and committed for the long-term.

As Dr. Karyn Purvis once said, “All children need to know that they’re precious and unique and special. But a child [who has experienced complex trauma] needs to know it more desperately.”

The following are practical questions, tips, and activities to help you reflect, remember, and act as you work to engage and build connection with your child and/or teen. 

Questions & Reflections

Consider how your needs were met as a child. In what ways did you know you were precious, unique, and special? 

What are some needs that might have gone unmet for your child in his or her past? What can you do to meet those needs now? 

Consider your current parenting tools and habits in light of your child’s history and needs. What strategies may need to be adjusted to better communicate to your child(ren) that he, she, or they are precious? 

Tips & Reminders 

Make a list of five attributes about your child or teen that you can regularly affirm (not only actions and abilities but also the beauty you see in his or her heart or character). 

– “I love how curious you are. You ask great questions about the world around us.” 

– “Thank you for sharing. That was very kind and thoughtful of you.” 

– “That is such a great idea! You are incredibly creative.” 

Introduce new experiences in your day-to-day interactions. Positive, joyful experiences are essential for rewiring the brain, and novel experiences also contribute to brain health. Combine the two, and incorporate one new, joyful experience with your child each week. Some ideas include: 

– Host a tea party. 

– Make a fort. 

– Paint together. 

Action Points 

Crossing the Midline

Cross-lateral movement refers to any time one side of the body crosses over the midline of the body to the other side. The right side of the body is controlled by the left side of the brain, and the left side of the body is controlled by the right side of the brain. Practicing crossing the midline is a great way to get the right and left sides to communicate optimally. Ideas for younger children—that are also fun—include classic games like Hot Potato (but you must hold the object with both hands), Simon Says, and clapping games like Miss Mary Mack. For older children, consider tennis, baseball, or softball; washing the family car together (which also promotes connectedness); and even a game of Twister. 

Remember to Remember

In “The Whole-Brain Child,” Drs. Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson write, “Implicit memories are often positive and work in our favor, like when we fully expect to be loved by those around us simply because we’ve always been loved. … But implicit memories can be negative as well, like when we’ve repeatedly had the opposite experience of our parents being irritated by or uninterested in our times of distress. … The problem with an implicit memory, especially of a painful or negative experience, is that when we aren’t aware of it, it becomes a buried landmine that can limit us in significant and sometimes debilitating ways.” As outlined by Siegel and Bryson, a great strategy for shining a light on those implicit memories is through storytelling. Building in habits of checking in with your child or children during normal activities together like dinnertime, errands, school commutes, or bedtime routines offer great opportunities for your child(ren) to talk about his, her or their past experiences.

This is the first in a series of five blog posts. Also check out:
Understanding TBRI® Connecting Principles
Understanding TBRI® Empowering Principles
Understanding TBRI® Correcting Principles
Understanding The Gospel and TBRI®

Register now for Show Hope’s 2022 Hope for the Journey Conference, premiering Friday, April 8, with on-demand viewing through May 31.  

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