According to the Buffalo Center for Social Research, trauma-informed care “understands and considers the pervasive nature of trauma and promotes environments of healing and recovery rather than practices and services that may inadvertently re-traumatize.” 

When a treatment center utilizes trauma-informed addiction treatment, the counselors and treatment providers are trained to adjust their thinking and approach to treatment. Instead of trying to diagnose what is “wrong” with the client, counselors are encouraged to learn who they are as a person and what they experienced in their past which has led them to their current state. This method seeks to create an environment that is both safe and cooperative, so that both the trauma and the co-occurring addiction can be healed. 

What is trauma?

Trauma is an emotional response to an event that significantly impacts one’s ability to process said event in a healthy manner. Types of traumatic events include: 

  • Abuse of any kind suffered at any age
  • Domestic violence or witnessing a violent act
  • Neglect, whether physical or emotional
  • Parents divorcing 
  • Living with someone struggling with substance use or a mental illness; also an individual who was/will be incarcerated
  • Racism or bullying 
  • Time in a foster home or unsafe living situation
  • A natural disaster

Everyone experiences these events differently, and while two people might undergo the same traumatic event, one person might quickly bounce back while the other person might continue to suffer. Depending on the experience, feelings of humiliation, shame and even guilt may be present.

With other incidents, the lingering question of “why me?” might haunt one’s mind, keeping them from being able to focus on other things while they remain tied to this potentially unanswerable question. 

Some effects of trauma might be visible right away, but others might take longer to manifest, such as those effects which become apparent when one encounters a situation similar to the event which induced the trauma in the first place. 

Trauma and addiction 

Whether the trauma was re-occurring or a one time incident, it can have lasting effects on a person. Effects of trauma might include: 

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Numbness or detachment and the avoidance of situations similar to the traumatic event
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Distraction
  • Anger and irritability 

To cope with these adverse effects, many people who’ve experienced trauma turn to substances and alcohol for their numbing effects. Even though the temporary relief may be briefly comforting, the complications and long term consequences of substance abuse only add to the hardships of handling trauma. 

6 guidelines behind a trauma-informed approach

Having a trauma-informed approach to therapy means understanding that behind nearly every case of addiction is a story, an event, an incident that drove the individual to substances. It is taking this understanding in therapy as a means of treating each patient as a unique individual and not just another trauma case. 

In order to promote this environment of understanding, SAMHSA recommends following these six principles: 

  1. Safety – To prevent re-traumatization, the environment and the people within it must make sure the patient feels secure and protected. 
  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency – Honesty creates trust, an important element for people who’ve experienced trauma. By trusting their therapist and treatment centers, clients will be more open to accepting and receiving the proper treatment.
  3. Peer Support – Hearing relatable stories and shared experiences fosters trust and community, vital aspects towards healing from trauma.
  4. Collaboration and Mutuality – This concept takes into consideration the healing effect of relationships of all kinds, between friends, family members, counselor and client, doctor and patient, even those with admin and support staff. Trusting the people in the environment surrounding clients provides a safer place, both physically and mentally.
  5. Empowerment, Voice and Choice – By giving the clients a say in their care, it removes the stereotype of them being just another trauma case. It gives a sense of control and responsibility in their own healing journey, which in turn promotes perseverance and dedication found from within.
  6. Cultural, Historical and Gender Issues – Both traditional and non-traditional cultural stereotypes and ideas can play a role in trauma; therefore, the needs and beliefs of the clients should be understood and respected in a kind and compassionate manner. 

Trauma-informed addiction treatment centers 

Many institutions, including Silvermist Recovery, seek to implement trauma-informed addiction treatment to provide the best in dignified care for their clients. They seek to steer away from seeing their clients as simply another “case” or “client,” and treat them instead as an individual with stories and experiences making them who they are today. They seek to understand their clients as a whole person struggling with the challenges of life, and walk with them towards recovery and freedom, both from addiction and the remaining effects of the trauma.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists, reach out today at (724) 268-4858.