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Why Trauma-informed Care Is Important to Recovery

Trauma is an almost universal experience among people with addiction and mental health issues, and it affects every aspect of their functioning–physical, mental, behavioral, social, and spiritual. Even though we all have negative experiences and memories from our history that affect us, some people's traumas are more severe than others, and they affect their lives every day, sometimes even years or decades after these events or incidents have taken place. This can hinder their road to recovery. That is because trauma, mainly when unrecognized, mistreated or inadequately handled, has a long-term, wide-ranging, and harmful impact on an individual’s life.

This is where trauma-informed care (TIC) comes in; TIC is a therapeutic approach that asks, "What happened to you?" rather than "What's wrong with you?" This adjusts the emphasis from victim-blaming to recognizing the individual as a survivor.

In this article, we will discuss what trauma-informed care is, why it is essential for recovery, and how to get started on your recovery journey. Read on to find out more.

What is trauma-informed care?

The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional reaction to a traumatic event. The event could be a one-time occurrence or a long-term experience.”

A substantial body of research has shown a clear link between trauma, mental health problems, and addiction. It has been shown that a large number of people who use mental health services have experienced traumatic events, such as childhood hardship and physical and sexual abuse.

Every day, people who have been traumatized encounter a range of situations that may elicit distressing memories or flashbacks to traumatic experiences in their past. Such triggers cause a neurological response, and the body reacts as though the person is experiencing these horrific past situations in the present. As a result, individuals may become withdrawn, distressed, aggressive, terrified, or non-compliant in these situations.

Trauma-informed care acknowledges the existence of trauma and its influence on people's emotional, psychological, and social well-being. TIC is practical; the treatment approach examines addiction and mental health issues from the viewpoint of past and historical trauma in a person's life. A trauma-informed approach recognizes that to deliver successful health care services with a healing orientation, health care organizations and care teams must have a complete picture of a patient's life and their circumstances–past and present.

Why trauma-informed care is essential to recovery

Firstly, it is critical to recognize that trauma is a common experience that impacts every aspect of a person's life, both internal and external. Furthermore, just as different people experience trauma in different ways, the causes of any given traumatic experience vary as well–these include:

  • Being a victim of bullying
  • Being a victim of child abuse
  • Being a victim of sexual abuse
  • Witnessing a distressing incident or event, or a series of disturbing events
  • Having a negative relationship with your primary caregivers or a lack of assistance throughout your upbringing
  • Seeing a family member turn violent towards another family member (such as seeing parents being violent towards one another)

Trauma-informed care aims to:

  • Avoid re-traumatization
  • Integrate trauma knowledge into policies, processes, and practices
  • Recognize the pervasive impact of trauma and the pathways to recovery
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in patients, families, and staff

For a long time, clinicians and researchers alike were baffled by addiction and its link to mental health issues, believing it to be an isolated disorder with no underlying cause or contributing factors. In the last 20 years, however, trauma awareness has come a long way. We now have a much better understanding of what causes addiction and how to help people with trauma through trauma-informed therapy.

There is a strong link between trauma and the development of substance use habits. As a result, many people who have been through traumatic situations turn to alcohol or drugs to help them cope with the pain, feelings, and symptoms that come with trauma. That’s why addiction recovery can be effectively treated with trauma-informed care. Some mental health treatments merely treat the symptoms, but trauma-informed therapy addresses the underlying causes.

Health workers who work with people who have experienced trauma seek to understand all of an individual’s life experiences to provide proper care and aid in their healing. Recognizing that we all have full lives with all kinds of pasts is an essential component of the trauma-informed approach to care. Trauma-informed therapy recognizes that clients have experienced trauma that has led to addiction or mental health issues, and patients must be handled and approached with compassion.

Getting started with trauma-informed care

Trauma-informed care can have a powerful and positive impact on individuals and organizations, and it has been demonstrated to be beneficial in reducing trauma-related symptoms. As a result, trauma-informed care has become a widely accepted model for creating safe places for those who have experienced trauma and lowering the possibility of re-traumatization.

Trauma is frequently linked to substance abuse, mental illness, stigma, health-care access hurdles, and other difficulties. Recognizing these links is essential to ensuring that patients feel comfortable and are not re-traumatized by their care. Individualized care is critical. After all, what is traumatic for one person may not be traumatic for another, and each person has their own path to healing.

TIC in a rehab context examines how people with substance dependence suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or the lasting repercussions of past trauma. In rehab institutions, trauma-informed counseling frequently focuses on how to support the person's overall healing by teaching them the right skills to help them navigate their journey forward.

At Jackson House, our managers, physicians, and support staff are trauma-sensitive, always working to avoid re-traumatization and ensuring that our clients and patients feel safe and supported. Our health care workers strive to provide an environment for growth and healing that focuses on recovery and resilience, regardless of the type of trauma an individual has suffered.

Get in touch today to book an appointment and begin your recovery journey.

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If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.