Trauma is often a significant part of what sets people on a path to addiction.
This may have occurred before and separate from their addiction, but also may occur during addiction. When trauma precedes addiction, people often begin to abuse substances to numb pain and cope with difficult memories.
Treatment after trauma can feel invasive and it is possible to cause harm even with good intentions. Medical professionals or caregivers should be mindful that trauma can possibly be a part of the patient’s history.
From an article by Massachusetts General Hospital, Liz Speakman explained, “Good care is approaching every patient with the assumption that at some point in their lives they may have experienced trauma and tailoring their care based on that knowledge.”*
As the patient and professionals work to address trauma, it should be done in a caring and sensitive way. Some patients may need treatment with their traumatic history in mind, but they are not ready to address it head on. If the treatment team addresses trauma without consideration for the patient, they risk re-traumatizing the patient. Some patients will be able to engage in therapy that directly addresses trauma.
Others will need the same thorough care and treatment, keeping trauma in mind, but not as direct. For any patient dealing with trauma, treatment should be laid out clearly and each step completely understood. Counselors and caregivers will work with each patient to assess where they are and how best to deal with trauma.
Trauma and Addiction
Trauma can occur in any person’s life and can come from a number of situations. Some people develop trauma from something that happens on a massive scale.
Others develop trauma from situations that occur in their personal life and possibly something they go through alone. Each person’s experience is valid and deserves to be properly treated.
In a study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH), they cited previous studies that showed people increased substance use or relapsed after significantly traumatic events.* Moreover, many people also develop substance abuse disorders as a way to cope with emotions they do not feel they can handle.*
Not everyone will develop addiction from trauma, but it is very common. If you or a loved one are dealing with this type of situation, there is no shame in seeking help.
From a study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 1998, they found, “As many as two-thirds of all people in treatment for drug abuse report that they were physically, sexually, or emotionally abused during childhood, research shows.”*
While the study is from 1998, the information is still relevant. Addiction is not inevitable after trauma, however past trauma can be a factor in turning to substance abuse to cope with the pain. Still, with these numbers it is important for caretakers to keep the possibility of trauma in mind.
Two types of trauma therapy that Reflections engages in are Exposure Therapy and EMDR Therapy.
With Exposure Therapy, the client is carefully exposed to memories and emotions from the trauma. This is helpful in moving on from trauma. With EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), the client does not talk but rather follows hand motions of their therapist. They will work with clients to work through trauma and reprocess it in a way that it will allow the clients to move forward.
For both types of therapy, it is important that the client feels safe and in control. If they need to stop or slow the process, they should know they can do that. Both therapies obviously require a qualified professional, which you will find at Reflections.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is another form of therapy that can help with trauma counseling. With CBT, you work to identify and challenge harmful thoughts that you may have because of trauma. CBT helps to change behavior through managing negative thoughts and developing anxiety management techniques.
Trauma can leave someone with severe anxiety and depression. This can lead to thoughts that hold you back and you may be more susceptible to relapse. A qualified team of therapists at Reflections will help clients engage in CBT as necessary. CBT is not exclusive to trauma, but it can help those who need it for traumatic experiences.
Patient Focused Care
When the treatment team is working with clients, they do not need to push to find out more about the trauma. If the client is able to address it directly, then they can do so through therapy. However, what is most important is that the client should feel comfortable and in control.
As stated above, EMDR is a great therapy to engage in without having to discuss trauma. With trauma-informed care, therapists will work with the clients with the assumption of a traumatic history. This means that our therapists and treatment team will work with sensitivity and care.
Any treatment is clearly spelled out for clients and done with their consent. Our hope is that any clients dealing with trauma in recovery will feel safe and empowered. If we can help clients work through trauma, our goal is that they also learn helpful behaviors to prevent relapse.
Finally, there is no shame in seeking help for trauma. Every person deserves support and care in a safe environment. Anyone who has lived through trauma is resilient even just making it to the point where they are at. Addiction does not change or take away from that resiliency. It is possible to overcome trauma and addiction. If you or your loved one needs help, contact us today.
Massachusetts General Hospital – Understanding trauma-informed care
NIH – Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services
National Institute on Drug Abuse – Exploring the Role of Child Abuse in Later Drug Abuse