There is almost always a connection to previous trauma or a traumatic experience that has become an underlying cause for addiction when it comes to substance use. Patients with a history of substance abuse often have traumatic stories, which signifies how the treatment can also be related to treating trauma as a whole.
At United Recovery CA, we are dedicated to providing compassionate, effective trauma therapy in a welcoming, safe environment as part of our residential treatment or extended treatment program.
This article will discuss how trauma therapy can help people who have had Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in connection with substance abuse.
What Is Trauma Therapy?
Trauma and addiction can be addressed positively through a type of therapy called ‘Trauma Therapy.’ The term got popular when Cathy Caruth’s 1995 article ‘Trauma: Explorations in Memory’ marked the beginning of an era after critics began studying the cultural effects of trauma and explored it through disciplines like sociology, literature, and psychiatry. (Source)
Accredited research claims that trauma therapy is the most effective for treating PTSD and the problems that come with it, which is substance abuse. Therefore, trauma therapy works by getting to the root of how the substance abuse began and, therefore, is most effective for altering the behaviors that stem from the Post-traumatic stress disorder or experience of a traumatic event.
Research conducted by Jensen et al. (2014) compared the effectiveness of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and therapy as usual for youth. Trauma-focused CBT was found to have more significant functional impairment improvements than regular treatment. This result had a 95% confidence interval, establishing the reliability of the research results.
Regarding the research conducted on the effectiveness of trauma therapy for Post-traumatic stress disorder, let us first understand what PTSD is and how it gives rise to the risk of comorbidity with other disorders.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder, more commonly known as PTSD, is a condition in with the person who goes through a traumatic experience or event has a substantial impact on their mental health. As a result, they often suffer from sleep disorders, anxiety attacks, and depressive episodes because of the recurring memories.
The effects of untreated Post-traumatic stress disorder are precarious. One reason is that the neural pathways have been damaged and reformed because of that experience; if left untreated, it is unlikely to go away on its own.
This then makes its way to sleep problems, chronic pain, alcohol, and drug abuse and impede a person’s functionality in the long term. (APA, 2005) Kilpatrick et al. (2003) found comorbidity of PTSD with major depressive episodes (MDE) and substance abuse and dependence (SA/D). Substance abuse because of PTSD was found to have a greater lasting impact than major depressive episodes. Kilpatrick et al. (2003) found a 12-month SA/D prevalence across both genders. For males, it was 8.2% and 6.2% for females.
The Principles of Trauma-focused Therapy
Trauma-focused therapy works in a systematic way to help you cope up with the traumatic event or experience. There are several principles on which trauma-focused therapy is based. These principles, when applied correctly, can help a person in overcoming the fear associated with the trauma. The principles of trauma-focused therapy include:
The first principle of trauma-focused therapy is expressing your thoughts and feelings about the trauma experiences. It has an approach of gradual exposure to each component of the trauma, which helps re-regulate your responses to the trauma and its triggers.
There is a range of coping mechanisms to trauma. One of the most common ones is avoidance of the triggers like the people, place, and situations associated with the trauma. However, it can still keep one ‘stuck’ in the trauma, and trauma-focused therapy aids in understanding and processing the trauma to cope with it.
Decreasing Stress Symptoms
Trauma therapists use many strategies to decrease the stress symptoms you might have. It depends on the preference and effectiveness of each activity. Some methods to reduce stress symptoms are exercise, journaling, chewing gum, spending time with friends and family, and listening to soothing sounds. These are often termed as ‘distractors,’ and even though they work by allowing the person to divert their attention to other activities, they are in no way reinforcing running away from or ignoring the triggers or stress symptoms.
Over time, these exercises help the person relax and self-regulate their emotions which is a big step in their journey towards healing from the trauma.
Processing and/or Integration of Trauma
Just as I mentioned before, trauma-focused therapies help you process the trauma and integrate it as a part of your life. This is necessary for you because it reduces the impact of the triggers on your life and helps you control comorbid conditions like substance abuse.
Furthermore, allowing the person to learn self-regulation through soothing exercises rather than resorting to habits like substance use makes their minds understand that they do not need to depend on substance abuse to get rid of stress symptoms and triggers.
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Trauma Therapy in Treating Substance Use Disorder
It is estimated that individuals with a diagnosis of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) engage in treatment for substance use disorders (SUD) at a rate five times higher than the general population (psychcentral.com).
The statistic shows a high level of comorbidity of the two disorders; therefore, their treatment is also interlinked.
When we talk about trauma therapy, it is about processing the trauma and integrating it into life. When the trauma has caused the person to have a SUD, it has been found that the treatment of the core cause from which the substance use disorder stemmed should be made part of the rehabilitation process.
What Should My Therapist Know?
In a first consultation, your therapist will ask you questions to understand what you are struggling with. You can talk to your therapist about your past, how your feelings and symptoms manifest on the day, and your family history. It might be difficult for you to open up about your traumatic experience in the first session, but you may want to talk about the most significant things that have held you in the past to have you get started on your journey with the therapist.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to therapy, and you should understand that sharing your problems with the right therapist should not seem uncomfortable. You should be able to speak your mind with your therapist, and your therapist should know all that there is in your mind.
If you are unable to open up to your therapist in a couple of sessions, you might consider notifying them to help you find another therapist.
Trauma-focused Therapy in People with Co-occurring Disorders
Up to 34% of patients in substance abuse treatment have both a substance abuse diagnosis and PTSD diagnosis at the same time. This statistic shows the underlying untreated PTSD, which in many cases is the root cause of substance abuse disorders. People with co-occurring or comorbid conditions like Post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction or substance abuse are likely to show better responses to trauma-focused therapy than regular therapy.
You might want to opt for a therapist who has had the experience of conducting trauma therapy. If you have a history of Post-traumatic stress disorder or have had traumatic experiences in the past, these might have resulted in untreated conditions. In turn, this situation may have caused drug-taking and self-medicating as a repercussion.
Trauma Therapy – The United Recovery California Approach
Addressing trauma during substance abuse treatment is a significant part of the rehabilitation process. However, it has been found that addiction counselors are not trained in trauma approaches to therapy even though the prevalence of traumatic preconditions amongst substance abuse patients is quite common (Giordano et al., 2016).
At United Recovery California, we provide a safe environment for the ideal start of your addiction recovery. Our addiction counselors are trained in trauma-focused therapy, and as a result, there has been a greater recovery rate amongst the patients compared to only addiction counseling.
Our patients in detox are provided with the utmost quality of care and rehab facilities tailored according to their needs. You or your loved ones will have a safe and enriching experience at United Recovery California because trauma therapy begins systematically that helps unfold the thoughts and then fold them back together with a discovery of the self.
Meet your Recovery Team
Our recovery team focuses on providing you or your loved ones with the utmost care. They are trained in addressing the trauma that results in comorbid conditions like addiction or substance abuse disorder.
Meet the recovery team here and see their qualifications and experience for yourself.