We all have things from our past that impact us. The experiences of some individuals are more severe than others and influence their lives every day, even years or decades after events occur.

The American Psychological Association defines trauma as an emotional reaction to a tragic event. The event could include a one-time incident or a prolonged experience. Some examples of trauma include abuse, a serious car accident, experiencing a natural disaster or persecution. Trauma greatly impacts the way the brain functions, alters behavior tremendously and may lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

There is a high correlation between trauma and substance use habit development. Although often the development of these habits is the result of a variety of factors, trauma can play a central role in the gradual onset of substance abuse practices.

Trauma-informed care is crucial for substance use recovery. Some mental health treatments focus on curing only the symptoms, but trauma-informed care acknowledges underlying factors as well. If you want treatment that helps you to heal from the past and enjoy long-term results, trauma-informed care is right for you.

What is trauma-informed care?

Trauma-informed practices use a framework that anticipates the contribution of trauma to a person’s struggles. In fields with a high prevalence of trauma, such as work with incarcerated individuals or veterans, mental health practitioners employ this lens. More and more, addiction recovery centers and services are adopting this approach as research and awareness around trauma increases.

Trauma-informed care delves into an individual’s past, present and future. This treatment helps individuals to process the past, learn how trauma manifests itself now, and handle symptoms in the future.

Moreover, practitioners using trauma-informed care will make efforts to counteract the effects of trauma. Because traumatic events make a person feel unsafe, defenseless and mistrusting, mental health professionals take care to foster a secure environment and empower clients.

How does trauma-informed care work?

The first step in adopting trauma-informed care is establishing a safe environment. The foundation of that safe environment lends itself to more productive treatment, as the client and therapist maintain a trusting relationship. A major emphasis of trauma-informed treatment is that a therapist makes an effort to avoid re-traumatizing the client by virtue of this safe setting.

Trauma-informed care also capitalizes on peer support, as it instills hope and promotes collaboration in recovery. In treatment, clients will feel empowered through this respect and cooperation. When clients have agency and ownership in their own treatment, they are more likely to participate and achieve greater success.

When the groundwork is laid and clients feel safe and valued, therapists will then teach critical skills. Much of these skills will depend on individual practitioner and client needs, but you may engage in positive self-talk, centering activities, trigger avoidance and the development of positive coping skills.

How will trauma-informed treatment affect my recovery?

Individuals struggling with addiction often have pasts that feel shameful or scary to them. A trauma-informed approach opens the doors to addressing a history that is less than pretty, creating a safe space for processing and healing.

Because addiction and trauma are often taboo subjects, having a platform to discuss both can be liberating. A trusting environment of trauma-informed care promotes a whole-person perspective in treatment, that can make recovery feel dignified. 

Trauma-informed treatment is also a strengths-based form of treatment. Not only does it engender a sense of security and worth, but it also emphasizes affirmation. Patients in addiction recovery are often hard on themselves, and may zone in on the negative (creating that sense of shame). These individuals can excel when strengths and positive attributes are applauded.

Getting started with trauma-informed treatment

Trauma-informed care is increasing in popularity, as awareness around addiction and trauma increases. Many addiction centers already operate using this framework, so starting treatment as soon as possible is the best way to take advantage of this healing approach.

Both group and individual therapy can utilize trauma-informed care; however, individual therapy is much more personal of an approach, and allows for more direct processing of the trauma. If trauma-informed care in a group setting clicks with you, consider adding individual sessions to your treatment so you can get to the root of the issue with the help of a professional.

Silver Ridge Recovery is an addiction program in Asheville, North Carolina, that uses trauma-informed care to offer the best treatment available. Call (855) 945-7788 to start your journey towards healing from substance use and trauma, with a team that has your best interests at heart.