The Importance of a Trauma-Informed Approach to Treatment

trauma-informed programProfessionals who provide mental or physical care will not always know whether the person they treat has a history of trauma since many people do not share or talk about their symptoms. As a result, some people could be accidentally subjected to more trauma or re-traumatized during their treatment stay by people trying to help them. As awareness grows of trauma as a significant factor in physical and mental health as well as substance use disorders, organizations like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have developed protocols to help treatment programs learn to address trauma in everyone under their care.

What Is Trauma-Informed Treatment?

Trauma-informed treatment seeks to treat every person in a way that would not re-traumatize or cause distress to someone with a history of trauma. Since this kind of acceptance and caution can benefit all patients, trauma-informed treatment has become a standard of care in many medical and treatment facilities.

As described by SAMHSA and others, trauma-informed care follows these basic procedures in caring for people:

  • Recognize that trauma may affect every aspect of a person’s life and how they respond to different types of care
  • Allow options for people to feel control and freedom to choose providers and treatments they feel safe with
  • Educate all members of the program, including non-treatment staff, about trauma and how to avoid causing distress
  • Educate people about the possible ties between unmanaged trauma and their mental, physical, or substance misuse issues
  • Create a safe environment and avoid using trauma-triggering language like shaming or speaking in anger
  • Avoid intrusive procedures when possible and provide counseling or support if the person must undergo a necessary procedure
  • Offer holistic care that treats the person’s living environment, employment situation, self-care abilities, and other non-substance-related needs

Trauma-informed treatment seeks to make sure every person in a facility treats everyone as if they might be an undisclosed victim of trauma and need extra support.

How Does Trauma-Informed Treatment Work?

A recent study featured in the Drug and Alcohol Review’s special section on trauma-informed treatment found that professionals often miss most people experiencing symptoms of trauma because they do not know what to ask or what to look for. Trauma-informed treatment works in part because it helps professionals treat people without adding to their trauma, even if the person does not feel comfortable or cannot talk about this history with their treatment team.

Most trauma-informed programs follow these steps in working with an individual:

  • Accepting and recognizing their traumatic experiences
  • Validating the emotional struggle involved in talking about these issues
  • Establishing a safe environment that avoids the person’s triggers
  • Encouraging the person’s active involvement by offering choices and control
  • Developing the person’s skills and strengths
  • Establishing a safe post-treatment environment safe from trauma or harm

Trauma-informed practices do not act as a treatment modality by themselves. Instead, they make sure the facility welcomes, cares for, and does not re-traumatize or accidentally cause emotional distress to people. All staff members should be trained to respond as if all people in treatment may have a trauma history.

Trauma-Informed Programs and Substance Use Disorders

SAMHSA notes that all treatment facilities for substance use disorders should be operating under trauma-informed policies. Their research showed significant decreases in mental health symptoms and emotional distress for people admitted to treatment programs with trauma-informed training with these policies in place. Researchers struggle to estimate how many people suffer from symptoms related to trauma since many people never disclose it. As SAMHSA notes, participants in a substance use disorder program with no trauma-informed care had more mental health and trauma symptoms.

A trauma-informed program should not be confused with specific trauma treatment modalities. People in treatment for substance use disorders may receive therapy for their trauma while being treated for their substance use issues. However, the trauma-informed programming involves the entire facility and all people involved, including clients, non-clinical staff, and visiting medical professionals.

For substance use treatment to effectively help people, they need as many tools as possible to help them stay in recovery. Following the trauma-informed treatment, staff will make sure the person can avoid or find safety from the sources of their past trauma. As a fully trauma-informed program, Lakehouse Recovery Center educates all its staff members and maintains an atmosphere of acceptance and support at all times. We practice all aspects of trauma-informed care and give people in our program the best possible support.

Substance use disorders and a history of trauma often go hand in hand. People with substance use issues can be self-medicating to deal with the trauma they do not know how to cope with. For people with a history of experiencing trauma, seeking treatment can be even more difficult. How do you know if a recovery center will understand your unique fears and triggers? If you or a loved one has hesitated to seek treatment due to fear of being re-exposed to trauma, trust that at Lakehouse Recovery Center, we will support you fully and do anything possible to keep you safe and in control of your treatment. Reach out to (877) 762-3707 today to talk to a trauma-informed, caring staff member. No matter who you speak to, from administrative staff to counselors and case managers, all have full trauma-informed training. All of our programs are designed around you, and we will support you in the journey through substance use disorder and trauma.