What is Trauma Informed Care?

a woman with mental health issue being comforted by a womanFor millions of Americans, substance abuse is about self-medication and treating pain, discomfort, and trauma. Today, some 46.3 million Americans struggle with drug and alcohol use disorders. Taking a trauma improved approach to their care means taking that background of substance abuse to alleviate pain and incorporating it into treatment. It’s also increasingly the standard approach for hospitals, clinics, and ERs.

People are complex and struggle with mental and physical health problems for a variety of interconnecting reasons. A trauma-informed approach ensures that your caretakers understand what’s influencing your health, how to best handle it, and how to treat not just the symptoms but also the underlying problems. For substance use disorders, that often means looking at the reasons you use and not just use, although that can mean extending treatment times to allow you to recover from substance use disorders enough to make those realizations.

What is Trauma Informed Care?

Trauma informed care is a general approach to medical care that’s used in emergency care, long-term care, hospice care, and behavioral healthcare. It involves creating a program based around the patient. It also involves building an environment that is safe and supportive of the patient. And, most importantly, it means training staff to look at and approach addiction and its treatment in the right way so they can provide an inclusive, safe, and caring environment.

That means:

  • Reviewing your mental health history including family history to understand your risks, underlying problems, and symptoms created by substance use disorder. For example, if you’re showing symptoms of anxiety and depression, it may not mean that you have a depressive disorder. However, it may mean that you should have those symptoms treated and then reassessed in 3-6 months to determine if you have an underlying disorder and a dual diagnosis.
  • Assessing the possible impacts of trauma on treatment and recovery, with the understanding that substance use disorders increase risk of trauma and trauma increases risks of substance use disorders.
  • Looking for and treating underlying causes of substance use disorder with approved frameworks. E.g., for mental health disorders, for developmental disorders, for domestic violence and trauma. For example, a trauma informed approach may help individuals to cope with autism, symptoms of ADD, or to learn to create feelings of emotional safety and restoring choice in relationships. These treatments won’t fix the substance use disorder, but when combined with behavioral treatment for substance use disorder, can greatly improve outcomes.
  • Working to empower patients to solve their own problems and to have agency, so that they feel more in control of not just their substance use disorder but also their lives – promoting long-term recovery, the long-term ability to seek out treatment, and improved long-term outcomes.
  • Creating opportunities to learn life skills such as stress and anger management, typically through Mindfulness, exercise, and courses.
  • Building a safe environment, where staff are trustworthy, caring, and compassionate.
  • Treating you as an individual with unique problems and unique reasons for your behavior.

Essentially, trauma-informed treatment or care can involve a great deal. Typically it’s broken into multiple steps or processes, although most are delivered at the same time:

african american man speaking during a group therapy session along with some men and womenCreating a safe environment

  • Building a caring and emotionally safe environment where you feel safe to share
  • Ongoing relationship building, where staff work to build trust and relationships at the pace you feel comfortable at
  • Safe spaces to share trauma in private or as a group
  • An informed and highly educated staff
  • Staff work to be nonjudgmental

Treating underlying problems

  • Asking questions about mental health history, trauma, and current mental health during initial contact and at contact points throughout treatment
  • Staff training so that staff understand behavior is almost always based on underlying problems and how to uncover those problems in a way that is safe for the patient
  • Offering treatment for trauma, mental health problems, and behavioral disorders
  • Offering tools such as relationship management, stress management, and anxiety management

Empowering and creating agency

  • Giving individuals the option to make their own choices so they feel empowered
  • Asking you to take ownership of yourself and your recovery
  • Giving you tools to work with
  • Including you in planning next steps, treatment, safety plans, and setting goals and respecting your choices.
  • Offering follow-up treatment and sessions so you can engage with your mental health as you progress through recovery.

Those steps mean that the individual will feel safe enough to get treatment, will have the tools to share underlying problems, can treat the problems rather than the symptoms of trauma and stress, and can learn the tools to seek out help or care rather than turning to drugs or alcohol in the future. It goes full circle.

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Benefits of Trauma-Informed Care for SUD

People in a group therapyIf you or a loved one has a substance use disorder, trauma informed care for SUD can add a lot of value to your program and your treatment. Here, trauma-informed care fits into every aspect of your care – from emergency room admission to long-term rehab and counseling. Trauma-informed care means approaching you as if you are an individual with your own unique reasons behind behavior and choices and working to figure out those reasons and find solutions.

That means helping you to recover from addiction, not just by reducing the addiction, but by helping you to tackle the reasons you were drinking or using to begin with. And, that can be a powerful approach to your recovery.

Treating Underlying Causes – Trauma informed care works to try to understand the underlying causes behind substance abuse so you can move on with your life without being back in the same position you were before addiction.

Improving Engagement – Trauma-informed care works to make patients feel listened and talked to by creating safe environments. That can help you to better engage with treatment and therefore get more from it.

Customized Programs – Trauma-informed care ensures that patient tracks are customized based on the patient. This means making recommendations based on your medical history, updating your track as you move through therapy, and working with the patient to understand behavior, the underlying causes, and workarounds. It means tailoring your program to you so that it works for you and your problems.

Eventually, trauma-informed care relies on you engaging with your treatment center, sharing your truth, and getting treatment for that. That normally means having one on one treatment, getting check-ins, and having the space to share with your medical caretakers.

Looking For Trauma-informed Care?

Trauma-informed care relies on having a well-trained staff, a program that is flexible enough to incorporate individual care, and to offer a safe environment. However, if your treatment center can offer trauma-informed care, it can add a lot of value to your treatment. That’s especially true if you get follow-up treatment, with multiple touchpoints with your treatment center, so they can continue to offer more specific treatment as you move through recovery.

In each case, trauma-informed care will mean that your substance use disorder treatment is personalized, based on your history of mental health problems, and works to treat underlying causes as well as the symptoms of substance use disorder. However, often, you’ll start by treating the most pressing issues of addiction and cravings first so that you have the space to focus on full recovery.

Good luck getting treatment.

If you or a loved one needs help with mental health treatmentdrug rehab, or alcohol rehab Compassion Recovery Center is here to help. Contact us to ask about our modern and effective treatment programs.

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