How Trauma-Informed Care Revolutionized Addiction Treatment

trauma-informed care

Determining why someone became addicted to drugs or alcohol can sometimes help in the treatment efforts. Uncovering underlying causes will enable the addict and the therapist to address those causes appropriately. The process can be challenging for everyone involved. When the addiction stems from a trauma, however, trauma-informed care can be revolutionary in the addiction treatment approach.

The attempt to understand the nature and causes of illicit drug use can be traced back several centuries. Treatment for addiction has typically reflected what was known, scientifically and psychologically, at the time. Likewise, traumatic stress has been primarily associated with those in the military and was characterized as a sign of weakness. It was not until recently that medical professionals recognized trauma as occurring outside the military and as being a potential source of drug and alcohol addiction.

A New Paradigm

The American Psychological Association (APA) describes trauma as a “disturbing experience” that can result in “fear, helplessness, dissociation, confusion, or other disruptive feelings.” Trauma can have a major, long-lasting effect on a person’s life, negatively impacting attitudes, behavior, and “other aspects of functioning.” Further, the APA says that trauma will “often challenge an individual’s view of the world as a just, safe, and predictable place.”

With the advent of trauma-informed care, treatment for addiction was revolutionized as the addict and the recovery specialist both began to realize that trauma, indeed, was not a sign of weakness and that there is a direct link between trauma and substance abuse.

A new paradigm has emerged with trauma-informed care, which changes the question that is asked of the addict from “What is wrong with you?” to “What has happened to you?” Researchers and treatment professionals now recognize that trauma-informed care is critical to the successful treatment of addiction, assuming that “every person seeking services is a trauma survivor who designs his or her own path to healing, facilitated by support and mentoring from the service provider.”

Trauma-Informed Care in Addiction Treatment

Trauma can occur at any point in a person’s life. Being the victim of abuse or neglect is traumatic. Losing a loved one or losing a job can be a trauma as well. For a doctor or nurse, losing a patient can be a traumatic event. A pilot may witness or be part of a crash or even a near-miss. Lawyers may become witnesses to or victims of crimes themselves.

People respond to traumas in different ways, with many having few or no lingering symptoms. Trauma-informed care helps determine the extent to which trauma has affected someone and whether it has, indeed, led to drug or alcohol addiction and abuse.

Not only are certain people affected more severely by trauma, but the level of intensity and the frequency of trauma occurrences in a person’s life can have an impact on consequences such as substance abuse, mental illness, and other health problems. Likewise, trauma-informed care recognizes that the trauma can also affect how an individual responds to and engages in treatment for that addiction.

For some people, the trauma may actually be less of an event and more of an internalized sense of identity and false self. Regardless of the origin of the trauma, we now know that trauma-informed care has revolutionized addiction treatment as it enables us to see that direct link between trauma and substance abuse and help the addict in treatment more successfully with trauma therapy.

Trauma Therapy Methods

Some of the trauma therapy methods that have been found to be very effective in addiction treatment include:

  • Stress reduction strategies using mindfulness. Strategies developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center include exercises and techniques to train the recovering addict to respond to stressful situations in a mindful way.
  • A form of behavior therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy designed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) called prolonged exposure therapy. This type of therapy helps the recovering addict remember and engage with the trauma instead of avoiding it.
  • Cognitive processing therapy, which can help the person in addiction treatment recover from the trauma by focusing on how the person interprets and copes with the traumatic event. The goal is to regain a sense of control in his or her life.
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), a type of psychotherapy developed by Francine Shapiro focused on working through disturbing memories that can cause psychopathology.

Contact Providence Treatment to Find Your Path

In trauma therapy, you can heal any wounds that contribute to your substance abuse. At Providence Treatment, we help professionals like you find your own sustainable path of recovery. If you’d like to learn more about our holistic approach and pursuing spirituality in addiction treatment, we encourage you to contact our staff today by calling 484-469-9592.

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