Tag Archives: Healing From Trauma

Trauma and Recovery

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.

Trauma Therapy

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

Unresolved Grief and Addiction: How Self Medication Turns into Addiction

Grief hurts. There is no magic pill for healing your grief. And honestly, it’s insulting when people tell you to just get over it and move on. It just plain sucks.

Who among us can say it takes this amount of time or that amount of behavior to stop grieving? Time heals nothing you don’t work on.

And it’s tough. The emotional pain of grief is tantamount to a slow recovery from major surgery. So, naturally, we avoid it if we can. But avoiding it heals nothing either.

It’s easy to see why people use substances to avoid the pain, often falling into addiction and adding another problem to their grief.

What Causes Grief?

There are many life events that cause grief. Here are some of the things that cause normal grief:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Death of a friend
  • Divorce
  • Divorce of a parent
  • Loss of a pet
  • Ending of a friendship or relationship
  • Loss of a job
  • Trauma of physical or emotional abuse
  • Seeing a loved one suffer
  • Loss of familiar surroundings
  • Remembering past losses and abuses
  • Major change in any meaningful part of life

Any great loss, change or traumatic experience can cause significant grief. Perhaps particularly apropos for people abusing substances, the loss of identity, loss of self and a life wasted in substance abuse can be the biggest grief-causing trauma of all. Regret turns into grieving.

The Impact of Grief

Although grief and loss are deeply personal issues and there is no typical response, psychology experts recognize five main stages of grief:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

These stages aren’t necessarily in order, and are as individual as human DNA. However, being aware of our feelings and understanding them does help us cope. It’s also nice to know we’re not alone and we’re not the only ones who’ve ever felt this way.

Being capable of coping and being able to accept loss does not mean we’re OK with what happened, but it does mean we are willing to get better and begin to live again.

Uncomplicated Grief

Uncomplicated grief, or normal grief, is the natural sorrow we all go through when dramatic situations arise. Going through the grieving process is how we deal with loss. It’s not a bad thing; it’s a healthy response to a difficult situation.

Symptoms of uncomplicated grief include:

  • Pining for a lost relationship
  • Longing for a person who has passed away
  • Yearning for a lost companion
  • Preoccupation with loss, sadness and depression
  • Difficulty accepting a change in one’s life
  • Agitation, irritability and anxiety

While these symptoms are excruciating, people learn to accept them and come to terms with their loss. Although the memory of a loved one or relationship will never be forgotten, bereaved individuals learn that they have other people and goals in life to pay attention to. After a period of emotional work and spiritual growth, people with uncomplicated grief recover.

Complicated Grief

Unresolved Grief and Addiction: How Self Medication Turns into AddictionTen to 20 percent of those grieving develop complicated grief. In these cases, sorrowful feelings worsen over time instead of improving.

People with complicated grief are often predisposed to addictions. They can be codependent, love addicted, sex addicted or have none of those conditions. Grief itself can be an addictive habit.

People suffering from complicated grief do not let the memory of the person or loss go. They keep the memories alive in their heads by focusing on them and inadvertently feeding their own pain. Stimulating these thoughts in one’s head activates the reward center in the brain.

Similarly, clinging to a past love fires the brain’s pleasure signals, resulting in a chemical reward resembling being with your lover in person. In this way, complicated grief sucks people into an ever-winding whirlpool of sadness and painful/pleasurable emotion. Having complicated grief or bereavement disorder makes one prone to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Coping with Drugs

For people getting clean and feeling emotions, they are not used to coping with without substances, it can be overwhelming. Many of us can’t handle the rush of emotions that flood our souls once the drugs and alcohol wear off. So much of our society buys into the “I need a drink!” way of thinking, and we learn to numb our feelings with alcoholism, substance abuse and other unmanageable addictions that give our brains feel-good chemicals.

It seems fine at first. After all, “It’s what everyone does,” we reason. Unfortunately, substance use turns into addiction and numbing the pain becomes the only way we deal with (or neglect dealing with) feelings. When grief is stuffed down and out of mind, instead of getting better, people get worse.

Addiction and Grief

While drug and alcohol abuse seems to offer solace to grieving souls, that temporary escape fuels the same neural pathways as the grief-love cycle. Both addiction and relationship attachment – including the memory of love – arouse the same part of the brain.

People in bereavement are vulnerable to drug addiction, and people abusing drugs are prone to cling to grief until it becomes a disorder. Ultimately, which comes first is irrelevant.

Self-Medicating Grief

Cross-addictions come in many forms like alcohol and heroin, meth and Oxy, alcohol, and gambling. For people suffering from loss, it is not uncommon to self-medicate grief with alcohol and drugs.

When simple grief evolves into complicated grief, it becomes a chronic, debilitating mental health condition. And in this weakened state, seeking emotional pain relief through self-medicating substances ramps up.

Codependency and addiction to a person, love or sex carry much grief and loss when the relationship ends – whether due to death or a break-up. At times like these, people are drawn into drugs and alcohol to quiet their minds and to stop feeling.

Toxic Grief

Grief is painful. Pain makes us gravitate toward relief of suffering. It’s natural.

Even superheroes grieve. With powers like the ability to regrow limbs and stave off cancer, they can find no superpower to avoid emotional pain. And without treatment, even heroes grieve violently, ingest large doses of drugs or attempt suicide. Prolonged complicated grief is toxic.

In dealing with grief and substance abuse in men, effective treatment involves addressing not only the symptoms of substance abuse and addiction, but also the work necessary to overcome deep grief. Although feeling pain is tough, going through it with guidance and support is the way to get emotionally healthy and abandon self-medicating habits.

Summoning the strength to quit drugs and let go of unhealthy attachments takes work. It takes a commitment and surrender to the process. But with the proper treatment and a desire to change, people are accomplishing such feats every day at Reflections Recovery Center.

How to Help a Family Member Suffering from Grief and Addiction

If you have a loved one dealing with substance abuse and you suspect it’s tied to grief – either through the loss of a family member or friend, a divorce or other type of deep-seated grief from the past – you need to get your loved one help at a dual diagnosis rehab center. A dual diagnosis treatment center that has expertise in dealing with grief and addiction will offer the best chance at a full recovery from both co-occurring disorders. Reflections Recovery offers just such a program.

Regardless of whether your loved one is predisposed to addiction or not, whether the addiction or grief came first, treating substance abuse is the initial therapy. Until a person can think clearly and feel things soberly, no grief work can be done.

Only getting help for addiction and not treating the grief leaves people vulnerable to relapse or developing another addiction. Unresolved emotional issues like complicated grief can wreak havoc for a lifetime.

Read More About Trauma and Addiction

Working Through Self-Guilt and Shame During Recovery from Addiction

Guilt can tear you up inside. It is a demon that some people fight for the rest of their lives.

Guilt will creep up in your life, wrapping around and strangling you, leaving you drained and crippled emotionally.

For those fighting addiction, guilt is just another layer on top of a struggle that is big enough on its own.

Appropriate and Inappropriate Guilt

It’s normal and appropriate to feel guilt when you have done something wrong. If you have harmed someone, done something that violates your personal moral or religious values, or have done something you swore you’d never do again, guilt is the appropriate response.

In fact, if you didn’t feel guilty for wrongdoings, it would be a sign of psychopathy. Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by no guilt or remorse for bad behavior.

Antisocial Personality Disorder:
A mental condition in which a person consistently violates and exploits other people’s feelings and rights, shows no regard for right and wrong conduct and has no remorse or guilt for wrong actions.

Guilt is not necessarily a destructive emotion when experienced for the right reasons; however, when it becomes an all-consuming emotion, it will impede your healing and recovery from addiction.

It’s a Shame

Shame can be just as debilitating as guilt. Shame is a powerful feeling that often arises from guilt. However, it can be experienced independent of guilt. If someone bullies you or pressures you into feeling inferior because of what you did or what someone else did, that is shaming.

If you have an external locus of control — you blame outside forces for the events of your life — you will take to heart what others tell you about yourself and can easily be guilted or shamed.

Shame can produce numerous negative feelings in a person. Here are a few examples of what someone dealing with shame might feel:

  • Inferiority
  • Humiliation
  • Remorse
  • Embarrassment
  • Inadequacy
  • Unworthiness

Feeling ashamed is not helpful in recovery, since it can hold a person back in achieving happiness and personal growth. Any focus on negative thinking about yourself reduces self-esteem and inhibits positive change.

Guilt vs. Shame

The simplest way to understand the difference between guilt and shame is personified in this analogy:

Guilt says to you, “You did something bad and you know it,” whereas Shame says, “You are something bad and they know it.”

Shame and Guilt in Addiction Recovery

Nearly everyone that enters rehab believes they won’t have to worry about encountering these feelings of shame, guilt and remorse. However, during detox and the initial phases of treatment, it is very common to suddenly experience an onset of these emotions.

Much like depression and anxiety, guilt and shame seem to come out of nowhere and are two of the biggest psychological symptoms of withdrawal an individual will face during the first six months of recovery.

Self-Punishment Inhibits Recovery

Instead of motivating you to change and be a healthier person, dwelling on the self-tormenting emotions of addiction shame and guilt propel you into a pattern of negative thinking. Living in those feelings of worthlessness causes depression, which can cause relapse.

Oftentimes, negative feelings make people want to turn to drugs or alcohol. Feeling bad about yourself and struggling with depression and anxiety are common triggers for starting or relapsing into an addiction.

Punishing yourself by focusing on the mistakes you’ve made or the negative beliefs someone else has about you only hurts you. It does no good for anyone else, even someone you know you’ve hurt.

Overcoming Feelings of Guilt and Shame

Addiction shame and guilt occur in nearly every single case of substance abuse and alcoholism. As people enter rehab and become and remain sober and clean, they realize the damage they’ve done to themselves and their loved ones. It’s natural for this process to bring up negative feelings.

The key to overcoming this darkness is to learn new addiction coping skills and be able to work through your feelings, creating something positive instead.

Behavioral Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Behavioral Therapy:
A set of psychotherapies using techniques based on behaviorism, the belief that all behaviors are learned and can be changed.

The behavior therapies used at Reflections Recovery Center can help men struggling with negative feelings like guilt and shame. The foundation of behavioral therapy is to eradicate irrational thinking and replace it with rational thinking.

When a client at Reflections Recovery Center can open up to a trusted counselor and find camaraderie with his peers, who have an intimate understanding of what he’s going through, great relief and healing occurs.

The amazing therapeutic work in drug and alcohol addiction treatment addresses the negative feelings of guilt and shame, and it helps individuals understand their feelings and let go of resentments so true recovery can begin.

Here are just a few behavioral points on how to cope with shame and guilt when you’re dealing with addiction and trauma:

Feel Your Feelings

Many times, we want to stuff our feelings down and not face them. But by allowing ourselves to really feel what we’re feeling inside and talk about it, write it down or pray about it, we get real with ourselves.

Forgive Yourself

Don’t judge yourself too harshly or critically. Treat yourself the way you would treat a close friend, with kindness, understanding and no judgment.

Examine Your Guilt

If it is inappropriate guilt, let it go. If it is appropriate guilt, change the behavior(s) that trigger the guilt. Once you stop doing the actions that trigger the remorseful feelings, the feelings fall off as well.


One roadblock that keeps us holding onto shame is a lack of forgiveness. When we cannot forgive ourselves and others, we fixate on the pain and judgment instead of releasing ourselves and our loved ones from the merciless grip of guilt.

When you forgive someone, you let the pain of his or her wrongdoings go. It doesn’t mean you condone their behavior. It does mean you are willing to let their mistakes go because you don’t want that hurt to eat you up inside.

Forgiving the people in your life that have wronged you helps you heal. Perhaps you need to make amends for things you’ve done wrong to them as well; and, if so, making amends can be cathartic.

But maybe the pain you hold onto can’t be healed by amends because that person is no longer with us or because re-establishing a relationship with them would be more destructive to your life. In those cases, writing a letter you may or may not send can aid in forgiveness.

People in recovery often confess that forgiving themselves is harder than forgiving someone else. Oftentimes, we are our worst critics. So, being able to treat ourselves kindly and compassionately can be just as much of a virtue as forgiving other people.

Progressing into Self-Worth

The opposite of shame is self-worth. Valuing, believing in and loving yourself comprise a healthy self-image and increase your self-esteem.

These are some qualities of high self-worth:

  • Confidence
  • Inherent sense of value as a person
  • Independence from external approval
  • Self-respect
  • Self-esteem

Feeling proud of and appreciating yourself increases well-being. There will always be people who will judge and criticize you, and there will be people to praise and encourage you. But learning to see yourself realistically, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, and being proud of the traits you possess bring you to your own sense of self-worth.

Don’t let shame or guilt hold you back from getting the tools you need to recover. You need healthy addiction coping mechanisms to help you work through emotional issues like guilt, remorse and shame for a successful recovery.

“Each new day is an opportunity to start all over again…
to cleanse our minds and hearts anew and to clarify our vision.
And let us not clutter up today with the leavings of other days.”
– Author unknown, compiled by Jo Petty

Learn Even More About Overcoming Guilt and Shame in the First Year of Sobriety 

How to Let Go of Shame in Recovery

Trauma-Informed Therapy Offers Better Treatment for Dual Diagnosis Recovery

There’s a strong correlation between addiction, mental illness and trauma. People who experience one of these circumstances are significantly more likely to experience the other two.

That’s why when you’re looking for a drug or alcohol treatment program, it’s important to consider the staff’s ability to address co-occurring disorders, and whether they use a trauma-informed approach to addiction treatment.

Dual Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders refer to a situation where a person suffers from multiple disorders at the same time. It’s common for people with addiction to have a co-occurring mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD.

Dual diagnosis is when a person is evaluated by a medical professional and found to have co-occurring disorders. Evaluating new clients for possible co-occurring disorders is standard practice for rehab centers that are qualified to treat dual diagnosis cases, like Reflections Recovery Center is.  

Mental health issues that commonly co-occur with substance abuse include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Trauma (a more general term than PTSD but still very relevant)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Other mood disorders and personality disorders
  • Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

The Link Between Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

Those suffering from mental health disorders are more likely to turn to addictive substances to alleviate the symptoms of their mental illness.

Addiction can also worsen the symptoms of mental illness, and even cause signs of mental illness to appear when there were none previously.

This is why it’s important to treat mental disorders and addiction at the same time, because failing to fix one problem can make it difficult to remedy the other.

The Link Between Addiction and Trauma

The link between trauma and addiction is also a two-way street: Trauma can lead to addiction, and addiction can lead to trauma.

Historically, trauma has often been ignored – by the victims, who are ashamed to admit to their victimization and trauma symptoms, and by those around them who prefer to avoid dealing with the difficult and dark issues that often lead to trauma.

But it’s dangerous to ignore trauma during substance abuse treatment. Without healing from trauma, the client will most likely relapse into addiction after leaving treatment.

In helping a client overcome trauma, it’s important that the treatment center staff know how to address the trauma without re-traumatizing the client. This is why choosing a rehab center that follows a trauma-informed approach is very important when selecting an addiction treatment program.

A Trauma-Informed Approach to Substance Abuse Treatment

A trauma-informed approach is not a specific program or therapy, but refers to the mindset and practices that support healthy recovery from trauma.

An addiction treatment program based on a trauma-informed approach will:

  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, as well as in families, staff and others that are affected by addiction
  • Organize treatment and recovery around therapies that help clients heal from trauma, as well as addiction
  • Actively seek to resist re-traumatization
  • Have widespread policies and procedures designed to recognize trauma, treat it and prevent re-traumatization

If you or a loved one suffering from addiction are also impacted by trauma and/or mental illness, then be sure to find an addiction treatment center that is qualified in dual diagnosis and trauma-informed care.

At Reflections, we specialize in helping men recover not only from addiction, but also from co-occurring disorders and trauma. Our all-male environment provides a higher level of comfort, safety and transparency than what you’d typically find in co-ed treatment centers. When it’s just us guys, men can be more real about what they’re dealing with, and benefit from the support of a brotherly community of men who understand each other’s challenges.

People coping with mental disorders, trauma and addiction often feel that they’re alone, that no one else understands what they’re going through. But the truth is there are many others experiencing similar challenges, and we have experts at Reflections who know how to help men overcome just about any challenge.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Is a Highly Effective Therapy for Trauma

Learn About EMDR at Reflections

The Importance of Trauma-Informed Therapy for Treatment of PTSD & Addiction

In any addiction case, identifying and addressing the root cause of the addiction should be the first line of treatment. “Dual diagnosis” describes addiction cases in which a mental health disorder runs in tandem with an addiction.

Over time, the symbiosis between the mental health issue and the substance abuse create an extremely potent cycle of addiction. At Reflections Recovery Center, we believe breaking that cycle means taking a comprehensive approach to the individual’s condition, and that is exactly what trauma-informed therapy aims to do.

Why Focus on Trauma?

Trauma-focused approaches to substance abuse treatment generally report higher success rates than treatment programs that do not focus on past trauma.

While any approach to substance abuse should aim toward finding and remedying the root cause, trauma is one of the most commonly cited underlying causes of addiction. Recently, the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University concluded that almost 95 percent of all the people struggling with substance abuse have experienced some kind of trauma in their lives.

Understanding the Effects of Trauma

Substance Use Disorder With Trauma Statistic - Reflections Arizona

Violent accidents, criminal acts, natural disasters, armed conflict, sexual abuse, domestic abuse and witnessing horrific events can all cause traumas.

Traumatized individuals may struggle to reacclimate to normal life, struggle to perform basic life tasks or lose the sense of enjoyment they had when engaging in certain activities. Trauma can also create intense feelings of fear, anxiety and helplessness.

One of the most troubling aspects of trauma is the tendency of those suffering from it to attempt to manage it on their own. Those who try to curb the effects of their past traumas may try alcohol or drugs to escape from a difficult reality.

Most people with traumatic pasts struggle to feel safe around anything that triggers the memory of their traumas. Drugs and alcohol may help them temporarily feel more at ease with the world around them, but this feeling does not last.

Over time, self-medication may inevitably turn into full-blown addiction while the untreated trauma festers.

Types of Trauma-Specific Interventions

Interventions are a common tactic in substance abuse treatment. During these gatherings, family and friends of the person struggling with trauma and addiction get together to intervene on his or her behalf to show the person that they feel the effects of this substance abuse and want to help.

An intervention is likely to be the tipping point that pushes a person into rehab, and taking the right approach to this meeting is crucial. Trauma-specific intervention methods aim to work collaboratively with individuals suffering from trauma and substance abuse.

The ATRIUM Model

The Addiction and Trauma Recovery Integration Model (ATRIUM) is a 12-session therapy course suitable for groups and individuals. The ATRIUM model is one of the most commonly used addiction treatment frameworks in modern prisons, youth diversion programs, AIDS recovery centers and other organizations assisting those afflicted by trauma.

ATRIUM draws on multiple channels for support to help patients acknowledge and handle their past traumatic experiences in healthier ways.

Risking Connection

The Risking Connection model emphasizes personal empowerment, interpersonal connections and collaboration. This model has seen various adaptations, each geared toward a specific audience.

Substance abuse can affect individuals in certain occupations or career paths in specific ways, and these models aim to treat the mental health issues, public health concerns and other effects of substance abuse in meaningful ways.

Sanctuary Model

This trauma treatment model focuses on children who have experienced abusive, violent or traumatic past events. The Sanctuary Model is most often seen in:

  • Public schools
  • Domestic violence shelters
  • Group homes
  • Community centers
  • Youth diversion programs
  • Teen substance abuse treatment programs
  • Acute care settings
  • Many other programs focused on helping children

The Sanctuary Model aims to create a healing environment where traumatized individuals collaborate and function together to create more-effective methods for handling past traumas.

Seeking Safety

The Seeking Safety model is versatile and suitable for individual and group sessions. Additionally, this model works well for men, women and mixed-gender groups. The Seeking Safety model aims to address trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse.

The overarching theme of the Seeking Safety model is, appropriately, safety. This model focuses on four main content areas: case management, cognition, behavior and interpersonal relationships.

Trauma, Addiction, Mental Health and Recovery (TAMAR)

The TAMAR Education Project is highly organized into a manualized 10-week intervention cycle. TAMAR uses multiple expressive therapies in conjunction with psychoeducational approaches to help those suffering from dual diagnoses in state psychiatric hospitals, detention centers and within communities.

Trauma Affect Regulation: Guide for Education and Therapy (TARGET)

TARGET is an effective treatment model for all levels of care and age groups. This therapeutic approach strives to prevent and treat the symptoms of PTSD. Trauma survivors in the TARGET program learn practical skills to manage extreme emotions.

Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model (TREM)

This intervention model focuses on the survivors of physical or sexual violence. The TREM model exists for female patients, while men refer to the M-TREM model.

Many mental health institutions, substance abuse treatment centers and criminal justice organizations use the TREM and M-TREM methods to address co-occurring disorders across all age groups.

The EMDR Therapy Model

The Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing model (EMDR) has shown to be the modality capable of the best results when treating addiction and co-occurring disorders. EMDR therapy helps patients make sense of past traumatic experiences.

It’s very common for individuals with PTSD to have difficulty processing their past traumatic events, and EMDR helps these people manage their difficult memories with less distress.

Trauma-Informed Care at Reflections Recovery Center

EMDR provides excellent results for extreme cases of PTSD and trauma. Reflections Recovery Center has a team with specific insight into what best helps those who come to us for help. Rather than working from a spectrum of theories, we focus on what works best for the clients who come to us.

With that knowledge, our patients undergo EMDR and several other trauma-informed therapies to learn how to manage their difficult memories and form healthier coping mechanisms.

Ultimately, the types of therapies used in a certain substance abuse treatment program will have great influence over a patient’s success. At Reflections Recovery Center, we want to provide our clients with the best chance of reaching long-lasting sobriety. Trauma-informed therapies help us do that.

It’s Nearly Impossible to Recover from Addiction Without Treatment for Trauma

We Can Help You Manage PTSD

How EMDR Heals Trauma During Addiction Treatment

It is common for those who have experienced trauma to turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the emotional pain. But while substance use may provide some temporary relief, addiction ultimately destroys their lives even further.

Addiction treatment for those with trauma needs to not only addresses the addiction, but also can help resolve underlying trauma. Without addressing the root cause of the addiction, relapse is likely to happen after treatment.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is one of the tools we use, as part of comprehensive holistic treatment, to help clients reprogram their brains after trauma, without having to go through years of talk therapy.

What Is EMDR and Why Is It Used in Addiction Treatment?

EMDR was originally developed by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., in the 1980s to treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As additional research has proven its effectiveness, EMDR has become a well-respected course of treatment for emotionally debilitating conditions and mental disorders.

One of the challenges in overcoming trauma is that reasoning logic and emotional logic work separately. For example, a person may be able to logically understand that they are no longer in danger, but on an emotional level they are not able to move on and still experience the fear of being in imminent danger.

EMDR works by isolating a harmful emotion in the brain and reprocessing it to create a more neutral feeling about the traumatic event, alleviating the extreme emotions that can lead to panic attacks, feelings of hopelessness, depression, etc.

How Is EMDR Different?

In traditional talk therapy, a client has to discuss his or her traumatic experience with a therapist, which brings the painful emotions to the surface. However, talk therapy can only apply logical reasoning to the problem, and it can take months or years to be fully effective.

EMDR therapy has three advantages over talk therapy:

  1. The client doesn’t have to discuss the traumatic experience; they only have to bring the event to mind.
  2. EMDR bypasses logical thinking and addresses the emotion itself.
  3. Recovery occurs much more quickly.

What Happens in an EMDR Session?

Source Of Trauma Must Be Healed In Addiction Recovery - Reflections ArizonaThe goal of EMDR therapy is to reprocess past experiences in order to properly store memories of the event so that the client can retain any useful knowledge and emotions from the experience and discard painful or unhealthy feelings and beliefs.

It also involves teaching techniques that calm the person whenever an emotional disturbance is experienced.

There are eight phases of EMDR treatment that happen over a series of sessions. How many sessions are required, and how quickly the client moves through treatment, varies for each individual.

The EMDR process works to address:

  • Past memories
  • Present disturbances
  • Future actions

Phase 1 – History and Treatment Planning

The therapist asks the client about the traumatic event that is the source of their symptoms. The client can choose to go into detail if they wish to, or give a more general answer such as, “It’s because of an incident with my father when I was a child.” This gives the therapist enough information to develop a customized treatment plan for that individual.

Phase 2 – Preparation and Trust Building

In this phase, the clinician teaches the client specific techniques they can use to deal with painful emotions as they arise outside of treatment. This is useful because even EMDR treatment takes several sessions to complete, and this provides valuable coping tools in the meantime.

This phase also helps build trust between the therapist and the client. In later phases, the client will be asked to rate how they feel and what they believe to be true. In order for EMDR to be effective, the client must feel comfortable giving completely honest answers to those questions.

Phase 3 – Assessment

In this phase, the client identifies a negative belief that stemmed from the traumatic event, such as “I am powerless.” Even if the client knows intellectually that this is no longer to be true, the objective is to target the emotions holding that belief in place.

Then the client chooses a positive belief that he would like to replace the negative belief, such as, “I am in control.” Using a scale of 1 to 7, the client then rates how true they feel (not thinks) the positive belief is at the moment.

During this phase, the client also describes any negative emotions (fear, anger, helplessness, etc.) and physical sensations (fast heartbeat, sweaty palms, stomach tightening, etc.) that they associates with the traumatic event. They then rate the intensity of these emotions and sensations on a scale of 1 to 10.

This sets a baseline from which the therapist and client can see the progress as the sessions progress.

Phase 4 – Desensitization

Now that the groundwork has been laid, the clinician leads the client through sets of eye movements to reprocess the emotions. The client is asked to watch the therapist’s fingers move in front of them, darting their eyes side to side without moving their head. Sometimes other bilateral stimulation is used, such as hand taps or audio tones.

Simultaneously, the client holds in their mind an image of the past trauma, the surrounding feelings they have about it, and any physical sensations in the body that go along with the memory.

This process helps the client move the traumatic memory from an improperly stored part of the brain to a short-term memory position where they can be reprocessed. While the thoughts reside in short-term memory, the bilateral eye movements allow the client’s brain to reprocess the information surrounding the event.

Periodically, the therapist will ask the client to rate their level of disturbance on the 1-to-10 scale again, with the goal of getting the response down to 0, which means that the negative emotion or sensation is no longer triggered by the memory of the traumatic experience.

This phase typically takes three sessions, sometimes longer, depending on the number of traumatic events and emotions to be processed.

Phase 5 – Installation

The objective of this phase is to focus on reinforcing the positive belief statement identified in Phase 3. Progress is measured by the 1-to-7 Validity of Cognition (VOC) scale, with the goal of getting to a level 7 – completely believing, on an emotional level, the truth of the statement.

In some cases, it may be necessary for additional education or action to take place in order for the client to fully believe the statement. For example, if the positive statement is, “I am in control,” and the person is under the influence of an addiction, this may not be entirely true yet. That’s why the detox process occurs at the beginning of addiction treatment in order to clear the way for therapy to be more effective.

This client might also want to take self-defense classes, engage in exercise that strengthens his body and take responsibility for aspects of their life that they had previously neglected. These actions will reinforce their feelings of being in control and supplement the work done in therapy.

Phase 6 – Body Scan

Once the client fully believes the positive statement, the therapist will ask them to bring the traumatic event to mind once again, and scan their body for any residual negative emotions or reactions. If any come up, then those sensations are targeted for additional reprocessing.

The ultimate goal is for the client to be able to recall the memory of the traumatic event without experiencing any tension in his body. The previous phases can be repeated as necessary until this goal is reached.

Phase 7 – Closure

At the end of every session, the therapist reviews the improvement the client has made, so that the client feels that progress is happening within each session. This is also a good time to review what to do if emotional disturbances happen in between sessions, and how to record any additional thoughts, feelings or sensations that come up so that they can be addressed in a future session.

Phase 8 – Re-evaluation

At the beginning of each session, the therapist will check to make sure that the client has maintained the level of progress from the last session, and then talk to the client about what needs to be addressed next. Then, additional processing will occur as is appropriate to that client’s circumstances.

Continuously re-evaluating a client’s progress is important in order to make sure that the positive improvements are permanent. Similar to taking antibiotics for a cold, a client may feel much better right away with EMDR, but it’s important to complete the full course of treatment in order ensure that the effects don’t wear off.

EMDR Treatment for Long-Term Addiction Recovery

Because many people who suffer from addiction use their substance abuse to cope with negative emotions and beliefs stemming from trauma, they are reluctant to commit to sobriety because they don’t have another way of dealing with these intense feelings.

By healing the emotional aspects of trauma, clients can confidently commit to addiction recovery and a life free from the shadow of past events. EMDR is one of the many clinical and holistic therapies we use at Reflections to treat trauma and several other symptoms and disorders that accompany addiction in our clientele.

Wondering If EMDR Could Help You or a Loved One Recover from Addiction AND Trauma?

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