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Trauma-Informed Care in Addiction Treatment

Trauma-Informed Care in Addiction Treatment | Just Believe Recovery
In This Article

A trauma-informed approach to addiction treatment acknowledges the consequences of addiction as well as trauma. It uses this recognition as a way to facilitate the healing process from both issues. In doing so, it addresses the traumatic events that contributed to addiction, as well as the emotional fallout that is the result of behaviors related to substance abuse.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a trauma-informed approach should is a program, organization, or system that:

…realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery.

…recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system.

…responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices.

…seeks to resist re-traumatization actively.

While these elements describe informed-care broadly, they can be used in any approach and modified to the program’s specific’s needs and objectives.

SAMHSA also reports that there are six key principles of a trauma-informed approach:

  • Safety
  • Trustworthiness and transparency
  • Peer support
  • Collaboration and mutuality
  • Empowerment, voice, and choice
  • Cultural, historical, and gender issues

Each of these principles compliments each other and provides a picture of how a healthy approach to addressing trauma should look. Moreover, trauma-informed care is less a specific set of interventions and program details and more of a generalized approach to mental health and addiction treatment.

How Does Trauma Affect Addiction and Related Treatment?

There is a two-sided and damaging relationship between trauma and addiction. Traumatic events can be at the center of many forms of addiction. In some cases, traumatic events trigger mental states that lead to addiction, and in others, the addiction itself can result in trauma to both the person suffering, as well as his or her loved ones.

Traumatic events and situations can be encountered in a variety of forms, including the following:

  • Experiencing a natural disaster such as a hurricane
  • Experiencing physical, mental, or sexual abuse, especially in childhood
  • Suffering a bodily injury
  • Being involved or witnessing a tragic accident
  • Witnessing a severe injury or fatality
  • Being in military combat and having wartime experiences

Processing a traumatic event can be difficult, but when addiction is added, this combination can have a very severe impact on relationships. Because people often self-medicate using drugs and alcohol and other addictive behaviors, this, in and of itself, can inflict more trauma on friends, family, and others close to the person suffering.

Trauma-Informed Care in Addiction Treatment | Just Believe Recovery

Moreover, trauma can contribute to addiction, and addiction can contribute to additional trauma. For this reason and others, a trauma-informed approach to addiction treatment is essential for recovery.

Every person’s experience of trauma is different, and every person’s addictive behavior is different. That said, there are some common characteristics of a traumatic experience that, when combined, may lead a person who experiences them engage in substance use or abuse that leads to addiction. These include the following:

  • The traumatic event was unexpected, and the person who experienced it was not prepared.
  • The person felt helpless/powerless to stop the event from occurring.
  • The person felt responsible for the event, whether or not it was his or her fault.

These are issues related to trauma that become very integrated with addiction and its consequences, which serve as more reasons why trauma-informed care plays such a vital role in addiction and mental health treatment.


Currently, One of the most relevant approaches to addiction treatment considered to be a vital component of trauma-informed care is EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing).

EMDR is a form of trauma-informed care for addiction treatment that has also been shown to be effective in addressing mental disorders as well as the consequences of trauma. EMDR therapy uses rapid eye movements in an attempt to desensitize patients from the stigmas, unhealthy emotions, and harmful behaviors that they correlate with the experience of traumatic events.

The idea behind the therapy, however, is to not only desensitize people from these negative emotions but also assist them in reprocessing their thoughts and feelings into healthier, more constructive behaviors. EMDR therapy provides a safe environment for people to be empowered in their recovery and recognize that the effects of trauma are equally important to address as addiction and its consequences.

Getting Professional Help

If you or a loved one has experienced trauma and are suffering from addiction to drugs or alcohol, it’s time to seek treatment. Deciding to get help is the first step to long-term recovery.

Midwood Addiction Treatment offers integrated programs designed to treat all aspects of a person’s physical and mental well-being. We treat mental health disorders and trauma in conjunction with substance abuse to ensure that patients have the tools they need to prevent relapse and have the best chance for success.

Just Believe Recover offers behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, group support, and many other evidence-based treatments intended to help clients work through their trauma and rebuild their psychological health.

If you are ready to take the steps needed to begin your recovery journey, please contact us today to discuss treatment options and find out how we can help!

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