Trigger Warning Guidelines

Dr. Kirk Honda, PsyD, LMFT

June 2, 2015


1. If a presenter is planning on exposing individuals to graphic depictions or descriptions of common trauma triggers such as childhood abuse, sexual assault, war stress, or traumatic death (e.g., suicide, homicide, car accident), then that individual or organization should adequately and reasonably inform with enough time to contemplate and react without consequences such as embarrassment or loss of course credit.

2. If an individual is aware that he or she can become triggered by something relatively uncommon (e.g., fire trucks, loud noises), then the individual is encouraged to advocate for him or herself by informing presenters as necessary; and if a presenter has been informed, the presenter should compassionately and reasonably accommodate the individual because it is moral and just to care for one another.

3. Aside from trauma triggers, if an individual feels uncomfortable with a presentation (e.g., lecture on sexism), the individual is free to communicate that to the presenter; however, the individual is encouraged to consider carefully before invoking the term “trigger warning” since over-usage of this term potentially undermines the movement to protect individuals suffering from PTSD and other trauma-related conditions.

4. If an individual is suffering from a trauma-related condition (e.g., PTSD, dissociation, substance use), he or she is encouraged to engage in trauma recovery from a competent trauma therapist since this will reduce or eliminate suffering and the need for trigger warnings.

5. Unqualified individuals in the media should refrain from providing uneducated commentary on the trigger warnings and trauma-related conditions since this might further stigmatize trauma-related conditions, hamper efforts to reduce suffering, create a hostile environment for traumatized individuals, and potentially lead to triggered symptoms for traumatized individuals such as depression, anxiety, suicide, fearful rage, and drug abuse.  However, individuals in the media are encouraged to comment on clear abuses of the term “trigger warning” while also advocating for the term’s valid uses.