Many people ask the same question when researching addiction treatment for themselves or their loved ones: What is Trauma-Informed Care? Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) is a recognition by staff and individuals in a behavioral health facility of the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledgment of trauma in an individual’s life. The general understanding of trauma is that it is an intensely stressful experience that has a lasting impact on an individual. Where addiction treatment and recovery are involved, it must be expanded to include the influence trauma has on the lives of individuals. The path to addiction is different for everyone, but trauma and addiction are closely associated by many contributing factors.

The Relationship Between Trauma and Addiction

An individual’s trauma is any incident, whether present or childhood, that overwhelms the ability to process that experience in a productive and healthy manner. Trauma can range anywhere from a one-time incident to long-term stressors such as abandonment, sexual abuse, neglect, war-time experience or domestic abuse. Either way, a traumatic experience influences an individual’s decision making process and leads that person to question their psychological or emotional stability. Individual’s struggling with trauma will fear for their physical safety when triggered.

Individuals who have experienced trauma often turn to alcohol and drugs to self-medicate—to handle the overwhelming emotion and physical symptoms. Self-medicating is an attempt to, at the very least, help the individual forget about the traumatic experience and the involved emotions. When individuals self-medicate, they only temporarily relieve the symptoms of trauma, though it may feel like they are making it all go away. Self-medicating is a harmful coping mechanism common to both trauma survivors and those struggling with mental health disorders. The importance of trauma-informed care cannot be overstated. It is an essential element of drug and alcohol treatment. Undiagnosed and unresolved trauma must be treated along with Substance Use Disorder. When an individual admits to treatment, the initial assessment conducted by a clinician will identify any underlying conditions that are contributing to his or her addiction. More often than not, someone struggling with addiction has a history of trauma and/or co-occurring disorders. Addiction professionals identify these conditions and design a treatment plan accordingly. Ultimately, a part of the individual’s task is to educate themselves about their trauma and harmful habits and create new, healthier coping skills.

Evidence-Based Addiction and Trauma Treatment

HEAL Behavioral Health is a Dual Diagnosis facility that addresses the underlying trauma that exists behind addiction. HEAL Behavioral Health recognizes the importance of treating trauma along with addiction and co-occurring disorders. Finding a treatment center that understands past trauma and knows how to best help individuals with co-occurring PTSD and addiction is essential.

The most regarded treatment programs will follow an established set of guidelines.

Set of guidelines for trauma informed care

Best practices for trauma-informed care include six guiding principles:

  1. The safety of the individual
  2. Transparency and communication
  3. Support from peers
  4. Collaboration and trust in relationships
  5. Empowerment of the individual
  6. Personal and social Issues i.e. Gender and Culture

Why Evidence-Based, Trauma-Informed Care Works

Only in more recent years has there been an effort to understand the various factors that can contribute to the development of Substance Use Disorder in victims of trauma and providing more comprehensive treatment for those struggling with trauma and Substance Use Disorder. The main understanding is that—substance use may begin as a coping mechanism as a result of trauma, and changing this maladaptive behavior requires intensive trauma therapy with certified trauma therapists.

Trauma-informed treatment for Substance Use Disorder just means that the treatment acknowledges and understands the special needs of a trauma patient. Individuals struggling with trauma need to be seen and heard without judgment—and all the more for individuals struggling with addiction along with trauma. The feeling of shame can be overwhelming for many people—it is essential to empower these individuals when they seek support.

It is easy for a victim of trauma to develop the idea that they are somehow less than those who do not share the same experience as them. They tend to blame themselves and may sincerely feel that they are unlovable and unworthy. Trauma-informed care recognizes these obstacles and also recognizes their bravery in coming forward and making an effort to heal.

Treating Trauma and Co-Occurring Disorders at HEAL Behavioral Health

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Trish Byars, the Primary Trauma Therapist at HEAL Behavioral Health, understands that an individual’s story starts much before his or her addiction. Her passion is to help victims of trauma find refuge, and lives by the motto “I see you, I hear you, and I know how to help you.”

When people in our care hear these words, they feel safe. They know that they are being heard and it makes all the difference in the world. They are with the right people in the right place. They know the help they need is within reach and that they can start working towards a new life.

The HEAL Ranch was chosen expressly with healing in mind. We realize that every detail, however small, can have a bearing on a vulnerable person’s state of mind. Many of those entrusted to our care face other challenges on top of addiction. Depression, anxiety, trauma and anger issues can be directly associated with active addiction. For recovery to begin to grow, an individual needs a proper diagnosis of any co-occurring psychological condition so that appropriate treatment can be rendered.

There is hope to heal.