Trauma-informed rehabilitation - addiction & trauma

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describes trauma as the universal experience of most people with a substance abuse problem. A person's experiences influence his or her actions. For some, traumatic events or abuse are the cornerstone to their drug problem.

Addiction is a disease that develops from the chronic use of a drug, but trauma is often the underlying force that keeps a person seeking the relief they find in drug use. It becomes a cycle that keeps repeating until the underlying traumatic problem is treated, as well. This is the basis of a trauma-informed care plan.

What is the Definition of Trauma?

Trauma is an event or experience that is overwhelming both physically and psychologically. It can be a single moment or something that occurs repeatedly. Trauma is a complex concept, but it generally falls into one of these main categories:
  • Impersonal - This is the wrong place, at the wrong time scenario like a natural disaster or a car accident.
  • Interpersonal - This is a deliberate act such as assault or neglect.
  • Identity - This is shaming behavior based on an individual characteristic - gay bashing, for example.
  • Community - Something associated with a person's family or culture like racism.
  • Complex trauma - This chronic abuse or a trauma that happens repeatedly, such as long-term sexual abuse.
What is Trauma-Informed Care?

Trauma-informed care is about awareness. It starts with developing an understanding of the need behind the drug addiction. Eventually, addiction becomes a physical craving, but it doesn't start out that way. Something drives a person to use for the first time; many times it is some form of trauma. Understanding that need is a critical part of successful treatment.

A system that is trauma-informed:
  1. Realizes the impact of trauma,
  2. Recognizes the signs of trauma,
  3. Responds to the trauma by integrating evidence-based treatments for it into the program, and
  4. Takes steps to avoid re-traumatization during the treatment.
How Does an Integrated Trauma-Informed Treatment Work?

The trauma-informed approach to recovery focuses on six key principles.
  1. Safety
  2. Trustworthiness
  3. Peer support
  4. Collaboration
  5. Empowerment
  6. Cultural issues
The patient enters an environment that is safe and transparent. This bond of trust helps promote healing and addiction recovery. They interact with peers that support and accept them. The treatment will work to empower them enough to overcome the addiction by helping them deal with the trauma. Coping techniques and self-acceptance help reduce the risk of further trauma related to cultural issues that may drive them back to drug use.

Traditional treatment models focus on managing the symptoms of addiction. A trauma-informed care plan works to resolve the trauma in order to alleviate the symptoms, instead. This care plan enhances survival skills and resilience through problem-solving techniques. Reestablishing a sense of self-pride leads them down the path to a drug-free life.

The Whole Person Approach to Treat Addiction

Trauma-focused treatment integrates addiction recovery with trauma care to create a whole person approach to sobriety. It focuses on evidence-based programs like:
  • Prolonged Exposure (PE) - Re-experience a traumatic event in a safe place in order to engage it.
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) - Learning to manage traumatic memories instead of avoiding them in way the work against recovery
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) - an 8-phase approach to adaptive coping of traumatic memories
Along with traditional addiction recovery techniques such as behavior modification, trauma informed care offer hope to those who turn to drugs to cope with their pain.

Trauma-informed rehabilitation is a healing process that looks beyond the addiction. Drug-seeking behavior is a coping mechanism. This specialized therapeutic process will combine trauma care with addiction recovery to heal the whole person.
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