Trauma Informed Care – Why Does It Matter?
The process of trying to get rid of the bondage that comes from drug and alcohol abuse can consume a life. This should not be viewed any differently than a medical based trauma, which is why trauma informed care with people suffering from addiction has become so important. Addiction treatment and recovery programs in Denver must take trauma into account, as there is a definitive link there that cannot be discounted. For people that are bound by drug and alcohol abuse, there is always a precipitating reason that has led them to that behavior. For some, it is because the feelings of pleasure that result are so highly desired, while for others it is out of the need to escape the pain that is occurring in life. At some level, trauma must be discussed because it does matter.
The Definition of Trauma
An approach to addiction that is trauma based starts with the building of awareness that trauma exists in the first place. It continues with an understanding that trauma is paramount to the development and the identity of the individual, and continues by helping people better adapt to a wide range of coping mechanisms to deal with trauma as it occurs. In essence, we are talking about the relationship that trauma has with the physical and mental health issues that many people present with. Trauma-informed care has developed out of a need to better understand trauma and its impact on the whole person.
Trauma typically occurs when an area or event in life begins to threaten the stability that a person has enjoyed. Trauma typically impacts a person’s propensity to feel safe and to cope with situations as they arise. Trauma also impacts different people in various ways. Whereas one person might quickly forget a traumatic incident, another person may develop a memory of it that haunts them for life. Consider divorce as an example. Some individuals deal with this life event quite well, while others have a difficult time and it leads to destructive behavior such as drug and alcohol abuse.
It is important to realize that almost any event experienced in life can become traumatic in one way or another. It simply depends on the person and how he or she is able to deal with it. If a person perceives that trauma has been experienced, it is important to develop a coping mechanism to deal with it. Some are able to do this positively, while others go down a negative path that is simply not healthy. People who suffer from addiction do not view themselves as survivors of trauma, but this is actually what they are. It is important for individuals to view the recovery aspect of addiction through a trauma-informed care perspective.
The Process of Becoming Trauma Informed
The path to becoming trauma-informed involves deepening one’s understanding of the impact and overwhelming stress that is thrust upon a trauma survivor’s life all at once. Therapists need to utilize a trauma informed care model because it helps people to become aware of the roots of addictive behavior. This is necessary before real long-term recovery can be achieved. It is also helpful to understand the history of trauma that one has experienced in order to see where the journey is headed. Therapists work to become skilled and proficient at directing the recovery process to incorporate various treatments for trauma. This is the way to make the path to long-term recovery more stable and sustainable.
There are actually several paths that trauma-informed care in Denver can take, and it is helpful for therapists and clients to understand each one in order to have a broader perspective. In brief form, those three approaches are:
- The non-pathologizing view – This involves showing respect for the person who is in recovery. This person needs to be built up as a human being that is worthy of being in society. The individual is not bad; he or she is simply a person in pain.
- Building an awareness of the stages of addiction recovery – This involves developing a road map for the healing and recovery process. It does not just make use of behavior therapy, as it goes deeper to understand the pain that the person was using when decide to continue abusing drugs or alcohol.
- Replacing negative behaviors with positive ones – Another aspect of trauma informed care involves helping the trauma survivor to find ways to replace the addictive behavior that has taken over with self-managed care, even when the same emotional triggers are still there.
It is also important to cover these three approaches in a bit more depth, which is what we will aim to do now.
Non-Pathologizing and Trauma Informed Care
A great many people who struggle with various types of addiction have thoughts that torment them day in and day out. These thoughts tell them that they are weak and that their character is flawed in some way. This leads them to develop a belief that their psyche is defective in some way. A non-pathologizing approach views the client as a human being who is in pain and is facing enormous challenges in his or life. The person is not, however, defective in any shape or form.
Involving trauma-informed care in the recovery process allows for ample space to be created that gives the client breathing room to see the problem and to understand how worthy they are of living. This process does not involve, however, ignoring the reality of substance abuse. It must still be dealt with head on. The substance abuse itself needs to be seen as the client’s way of coping with a traumatic event, meaning that redirection is needed in order to channel those emotions into something more positive.
The non-pathologizing view aims to build up trust on the part of the client. Clients in Denver need to feel safe and secure with the process in order to begin the healing process. Trauma survivors need to begin positively caring about themselves so that they will turn away from the harmful behaviors of the past. Many people feel that they have nowhere to turn and nobody to talk to. The feelings that they are not worthy creep in at every turn, so it is this part of the addiction recovery process that aims to reverse that line of thinking as quickly as possible.
The Stages of Addiction Recovery Process
It is at this point in a discussion about trauma informed care that we need to talk about the three stages involved in successfully recovering from trauma. This includes addiction. Those stages are:
- Stage One – Safety and Stabilization
- Stage Two – Remembering and Mourning
- Stage Three – Reconnecting and Integration
Safety and Stabilization
This is the longest and most involved stage of the recovery process. The focus here is on getting clean and remaining sober while learning various coping skills designed to deal with the emotions and painful thoughts that cause the urge to abuse drugs and alcohol. It is when the emotions are no longer numbed that many people in recovery begin to feel a strong sense of anxiety or depression. At this stage, they do not know what to do and this why trauma-informed care in so important.
Stage one is a critical part of the recovery process primarily because it is just the beginning. A good goal to begin this stage is to encourage people in recovery to develop positive coping skills. This is how they will be able to begin to recognize how to deal with emotions in ways that are much healthier. It is extremely important to begin to manage those painful mental states that come about unexpectedly, such as flashbacks to the event or moments of self-doubt and criticism.
Some helpful skills to include during stage one are: self-care, mindfulness, locating trusted resources, and working with supportive people that can help the recovery process get off to an effective start. Groups such as the 12-step program are also effective at this stage. Many therapists will also use Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Community Reinforcement, and Family Training programs to help individuals in recovery to develop the kind of the relationships that are positive, strong, and stable.
To the extent that it is possible, it is also helpful to get family members involved in the recovery process and to understand their role as well. Completing a month-long program does not conclude the process. It just means that the client has begun the journey towards building new and more positive coping skills. Developing strong connections with supportive family members and friends is what must take place before recovery can take hold for the long term. This is why stage one is such an involved and lengthy process.
Remembering and Mourning
Stage two involves taking this newly found stabilization and turning it into an ability to gain the type of freedom from substance use that will lead to a more grounded and positive lifestyle. It involves making sense out of the trauma that happened in life, but learning to channel those emotions into something much more positive. Mourning the loss of the peaceful aspects of life that the client once enjoyed is a part of this process, and it is dealt with an open and honest way during stage two.
Trauma survivors learn that the negative experiences they encountered are real, but they do not define who they are. It is important to remember the event, but not necessarily all of the minute details. Those details are not necessary to the healing process. Stage one teaches clients to be present in the moment while reviewing the past. Once healthy coping mechanisms are embraced, these traumatic events can finally be remembered and mourned in a way that does not bring about the urge to engage in addictive and harmful behaviors such as substance abuse.
Reconnection and Integration
By stage three, the unresolved trauma in one’s life no longer defines them. It is important to recognize the impact that the trauma has had, but also to embrace the idea that real healing can result. In essence, it is important to grow from the experience and learn to live with it without having to resort to negative behaviors as a coping mechanism. While extreme difficulty might have defined life for years following the traumatic event, stage three brings the client to the point that they are growing from the experience and are finally able to pursue a life that is happy and healthy.
Making Self-Care a Reality
The most important objective of recovering from trauma is to improve the quality of life on a consistent and daily basis. For the client, this means that life must be lived in the present, not the past. This is necessary so that the individual is no longer living a life that is based on an unhealed response to some trauma that has occurred in the past. To do so only leads to negative memories and haunting thoughts. Getting past this will improve the overall quality of life.
Progress during trauma informed care in Denver may seem slow at times, but this does not mean that the progress is poor. Becoming sober and staying that way is a process, particularly when such difficult feelings and emotions must be dealt with at the same time. Stabilizing emotions is so important during the process, so slow progress should be viewed as good progress. Cultivating new skills and strengths is at the core of addiction recovery.
Understanding the role that trauma plays in addiction helps everyone better understand how the addiction recovery process takes place. Those in recovery can begin to better understand and feel good about themselves. This leads to the type of long-term recovery that is sought after. This is about a positive journey, leading people out of the depths of the human soul into the light.