“Trauma” can mean many things. It can encompass grief and loss, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, bullying, childhood abuse, or domestic violence, as well as witnessing or being involved in a distressing event.
It can also include some of the experiences clients may have had as part of their lifestyle associated with addiction, such as being a perpetrator, witness, or victim of violence, as well as prostitution or sex work. At Enlightened Solutions we recognize the role that trauma has played in the lives of many of our clients. We also recognize the importance of addressing how trauma response symptoms may influence substance abuse and a client’s possibility of relapse. To ensure that we create therapies and programs to help patients deal with these issues, we employ a full-time staff member who is a dually-licensed clinical therapist with a special certification in the treatment of trauma.
Trauma symptoms as identified in the DSM-V include:
- Intrusive symptoms (flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts and body sensations)
- Avoidance symptoms (attempts to avoid things that remind the person of the trauma, such as thoughts, conversations, people, places, sounds, situations, or images)
- Negative cognition or mood symptoms (depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, shame, blame, anger, horror, negative thoughts about oneself, others or the world, dissociative symptoms, fuzzy memory of the events, and lack of positive emotions)
- Altered reactions (irritability, hypervigilance or always being “on edge”, aggressive behavior, self-destructive behavior, difficulty with interpersonal relationships, poor concentration and poor sleep)
Evidence-based treatment of trauma occurs in three phases. The focus of our trauma work at this level of care is to build and maintain “phase 1” trauma treatment. We do not engage in what is often referred to as “deep trauma work”, or phase 2 work, as it has been shown through research that doing so with clients this early in their recovery process is contraindicated and can cause more harm than good. Instead, we focus on taking the time to lay the necessary groundwork for clients to continue their recovery from both addiction and past trauma.
Phase One of trauma treatment is centered on establishing the client’s ability to create a sense of safety and to stabilize their trauma symptoms. Clients work on identifying the ways in which their trauma continues to impact them, and understanding the feelings that they experience as a result. People with a history of trauma, especially those in early addiction recovery, encounter great difficulty in regulating their emotions. In this group, we work with clients to build the skills needed to regulate emotions and self-soothe when overwhelmed, and we teach grounding techniques that can be applied when they are experiencing symptoms of trauma.