Trauma-Informed Care: Helping Recovery Through Empathy

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To effectively treat a physical or mental health disorder, it’s important for health care providers to know the history and situations that a person has experienced. This information can create a trusting relationship between the clinician and individual seeking treatment. Trust is imperative, especially for individuals who have experienced trauma.

It’s estimated that over 70% of adults have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives. Common traumas include physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, or family violence. Trauma can have long-term behavioral and psychological side effects, including mood swings, erratic behavior, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance use disorders.

The prevalence of trauma has led to the need for trauma-informed care. This approach may increase the odds of success for those pursuing mental health or addiction treatment. Learn more about trauma-informed care and how it can help people recover from addiction.

What is Trauma-Informed Care?

Trauma-informed care is an approach in which health care providers recognize the presence of trauma and the role it plays in a patient’s life, past and present. They recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma.

Practitioners integrate this knowledge into patient care, and organizations implement trauma-informed policies. With such policies, one of the goals is to minimize circumstances that could lead to re-traumatization.

Trauma-informed care doesn’t necessarily mean treating symptoms. Rather, this type of care offers a level of compassion and empathy that can improve the patient experience and health outcomes. Importantly, it also seeks to prevent re-traumatization.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has six principles of trauma-informed care:

  1. Safety
  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency
  3. Peer Support
  4. Collaboration and Mutuality
  5. Empowerment, Voice and Choice
  6. Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues

These principles help guide policies and procedures. For example, clinicians help to support and guide clients through recovery, but they let clients make decisions about their care. This helps trauma survivors feel empowered and part of the decision-making process.

Prevalence of Trauma and Addiction

The effects of trauma can be difficult to manage. These traumas can cause feelings of isolation or low self-worth in survivors. As a result, many people use substances as a way to adapt.

Those who have experienced trauma are at a greater risk of developing a substance use disorder. One study found that children with PTSD symptoms were more likely to develop early onset alcohol use. Because of the high co-occurrence, a trauma-informed approach is recommended for people in addiction treatment.

Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Treatment

Behavioral health disorders can be more difficult to treat if trauma symptoms are misdiagnosed or misidentified. Screening assessments include questions regarding mental health history and the presence of trauma-related disorders.

Knowledge of trauma symptoms can make substance use treatment more effective. First, it ensures that providers create a safe and supportive treatment environment. Second, this approach focuses on treating symptoms of both disorders. Clients learn the relationship between trauma and substance use, empowering them to learn coping mechanisms and move towards sobriety.

Trauma-informed care can help end or decrease feelings of shame, low self-esteem, helplessness, or powerlessness. These feelings often inhibit people from seeking treatment for trauma and substance use.

In our trauma-focused residential program for women, we use the Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model (TREM), an evidence-based, facilitated group approach for adults with mental health or substance use disorders. TREM uses social skills training, psychoeducational and psychodynamic techniques, and peer support to heal from trauma.

Trauma is treatable, and mental health professionals can design treatment plans to address traumatic symptoms.

Pyramid Healthcare focuses on using a system of comprehensive care to address the unique experiences and treatment needs of people who have experienced trauma. For more information on trauma-informed care and other programs, contact our admissions department.

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