Trauma Resolution In Addiction Treatment
Trauma resolution is critical to addiction treatment. Trauma is classified as a distressing or disturbing experience which can have major impacts on one’s wellbeing. The result of traumatic events can stifle one’s sense of peace or self, cause them to distrust others, numb emotions, or feel disconnected. While trauma from childhood experiences is often especially damaging, it can happen at any point during a lifetime.
Identifying trauma in addiction treatment creates healing and freedom. When those in recovery understand the sources of their stress and trauma, they are better equipped to stay sober.
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Types of Trauma
Many types of trauma exist, each of which is experienced in many ways and can leave a major impact on the human psyche.
Direct trauma is the most common and simplest type of trauma. In direct trauma, something happens directly to an individual, either by experiencing or witnessing it themselves. It is also described as personal involvement in a traumatic event.
Indirect trauma is where something impacts someone indirectly, such as viewing it on television or having it relayed to them by a friend of family member. Indirect trauma is also known as vicarious trauma, compassion trauma or empathic strain. Indirect trauma is frequently seen by therapists who work with trauma survivors as it is an almost inevitable byproduct of helping others deal with trauma for extended periods of time.
Acute trauma can be defined as limited trauma, or a onetime event that happens during a limited time period. Also defined as a single traumatic event that causes extreme emotional or physical stress, examples of acute trauma include car accidents, natural disasters, physical assaults, or a loved one’s passing.
Symptoms of acute trauma may include:
- Panic or extreme anxiety
- Confusion or irritation
- Feeling disconnected
- Sleep disturbances
- Suspiciousness/odd behavior
- Lack of self-care/personal grooming
- Problems at work, school, or home
There is no one form of treatment that is used for acute trauma. There are many that are used in conjunction with each other, such as:
- Immediate emotional support
- Removal from the scene of trauma
- Short-term use of medication
- Short-term therapy
Chronic trauma is ongoing abuse, neglect, or multiple traumatic events. These events may be a repeat of the same type of event, or totally different events that just happen to occur in succession.
Examples of chronic trauma include
- Long-term child abuse
- War or combat situations
- Ongoing sexual abuse
- Living in a domestic violence environment
Survivors of chronic trauma will likely require more treatment as the pain lasts much longer. Symptoms of chronic trauma may not come to the surface for an extended period of time, often years after the event. Reactions to chronic trauma may include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.
Insidious trauma is pervasive, but it does not necessarily impact an individual directly, such as living in a violent or dangerous environment. Insidious trauma is considered an out-of-date term, but it is still occasionally used.
Complex trauma refers to a psychological response to prolonged, repeated exposure to interpersonal trauma in a situation of which the individual has little or no chance of escape. Also called C-PTSD, complex trauma is often associated with chronic sexual, psychological and physical abuse or neglect, chronic intimate partner violence, victims of kidnapping and hostage situations, and victims of slavery or human trafficking.
Common Traumatic Experiences
- Sexual abuse or assault
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse or assault
- Separation from a parent
- Mental abuse
- Loss of a loved one/grief
- Forced displacement
- System-induced trauma
- Political and historical trauma
- Serious accidents or injuries
What Does Trauma Look and Feel Like?
Sexual, emotional, mental, and spiritual trauma have different symptoms and affects each person differently, and no two people are the same. Trauma has noticeable emotional, mental, and physical symptoms. Including:
- Shock, denial or disbelief
- Mood swings
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Depression, anxiety, and other co-occurring disorders
- Shame, guilt, and self-blame
- Muscle tension
- Obsessive or intrusive thoughts
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Flashbacks or nightmares
- Inability to relax or sit still
- Feeling unsafe
These symptoms can last days, months, and even years. In many cases, people turn to drugs and alcohol to soothe traumatic events in their lives, which can evolve into a debilitating addiction as they continue to self-medicate. Many in recovery have a co-occurring disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder or generalized anxiety disorder stemming from unresolved traumatic events.
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Resolving trauma has many benefits and will often lead to a life of freedom, peace, and transformation. Common types of therapies available to patients once they enter rehab facilities can vary from spiritual modalities to traditional clinical-based therapies. Once a patient enters into an inpatient rehab facility, they speak with their primary therapist who determines the most effective therapeutic interventions that match their personality. The therapist evaluates the patient’s substance abuse history and looks for any co-occurring disorders, with a sensitivity to traumatic events.
While patients remain in rehab, they can talk to a counselor, engage in psychotherapy, and begin reflective healing and meditation sessions while undergoing detox or immediately thereafter. These complimentary systems of healing create balance in removing harmful chemicals from the body and helping the patient prevent future use, reducing rates of relapses. When patients take control of the trauma underlying their addiction, they can return to a life of purpose, passion, and freedom without fear.
The Trauma Resolution Process
Trauma resolution stabilizes the patient while in their current traumatic state and creates a sense of safety from previous traumatic events. A basic process in trauma resolution is allowing the person to mourn and recall distressing events. The patient can use mindfulness mediation, for example, to focus on sensations related to trauma and focus on the present moment. This process helps the patient recall experiences which may have caused trauma, enabling them to express the trauma.
Another phase of trauma resolution reinforces connection and integration. Patients reconnect to a new sense of purpose beyond the trauma. In this final stage, patients can be integrated into peer support groups that offer for ongoing support.
Common Trauma Resolution Methods
Somatic Experience for Trauma Resolution
Somatic experiencing is a gentle approach to mind-body healing, as it resets the nervous system. When patients feel threatened, they may respond by fighting, freezing, or running away from the source of distress. This affects the nervous system by cycling between different states of consciousness. Somatic experiencing enables them to focus on bodily sensations expressed as crying or shaking for healing.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Trauma Resolution
Cognitive behavioral therapy involves talk psychotherapy. Patients in rehab can speak with a therapist concerning traumatic experiences and co-occurring disorders. Therapists provide patients with coping mechanisms, identify underlying causes of stress and trauma, and assist the patient resolve conflict to manage symptoms of trauma. Co-occurring disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression, and other co-occurring disorders are then treated.
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