Trauma-informed care is a commonly used phrase, but many individuals wonder what it means, how it’s applied to treatment and what the benefits are for clients. If you’re wondering about how you’ll handle treatment with a history of trauma, here’s what you need to know and how treatment can help.
What is trauma and trauma-informed care?
Trauma is defined by the American Psychological Association as a person’s response to a terrible event. While many people experience traumatic events, not everyone will experience unwanted residual effects including flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches.
Trauma can cause both physical and emotional harm, and these events may be life-threatening. Anyone can be affected by trauma and the aftermath can be burdensome for the individuals who experience trauma and those who interact with them. Healing from trauma can happen for some people without intervention, but many people will require therapy in order to heal from a traumatic event or upbringing.
Trauma covers a wide range of experiences. According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, trauma describes any of the following experiences.
- Community violence
- Complex trauma (exposure to trauma over time)
- Disasters (such as hurricanes or being in a building when it collapses)
- Intimate partner violence
- Medical trauma
- Physical abuse
- Refugee trauma
- Sexual abuse
- Sex trafficking
- Terrorism and violence
- Traumatic grief
Many experiences can be considered traumatic. The symptoms that result from trauma are often diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Whether or not a person is clinically diagnosed with PTSD, it’s important to consider applying treatment with deliberation when working with clients who have lived through trauma.
According to the Trauma-Informed Care Implementation Resource Center, trauma-informed care is an approach in which organizations and care providers, including addiction recovery care, operate and deliver services with a complete picture of a client’s life.
Many individuals who struggle with mental health issues or who have become dependent on drugs or alcohol have experienced traumatic events in their lives. In fact, experiences of trauma are a well-known risk factor for substance abuse and those who abuse substances are also more likely to encounter trauma, such as overdose attempts, homelessness or violence.
When recovery centers embrace the reality of trauma and modify treatment to focus on healing underlying emotional wounds, the care that is offered is much more holistic.
Why is trauma-informed care important?
There are numerous benefits of trauma-informed care. First, this approach can improve engagement, making it more likely that clients complete recovery treatment instead of leaving part way through a program. Retention in treatment can decrease relapse rates, promote participation in continuing services and improve long-term outcomes in sobriety and life.
In addition to improved retention, trauma-informed care that makes individuals feel comfortable and safe is more likely to produce adherence to treatment. Clients who feel respected by a facility and the staff will respect the structure of the treatment program in response, increasing program effectiveness.
Trauma-informed care in substance use recovery settings can also improve health outcomes. Understanding a person’s background, medical conditions and physical capabilities allows for more accurate services. For example, if a person has experienced sexual trauma, she is likely to benefit from interactions with female nurses she is comfortable with.
What are the principles of trauma-informed care?
There are numerous principles of trauma-informed care that guide professionals in implementing this approach that should be implemented in both one-on-one interactions as well as at group and organizational levels. The four main goals of trauma-informed care are as follows.
- Acknowledge the impact of trauma as it applies to recovery
- Identify the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients
- Integrate evidence-based knowledge and practices regarding trauma into policies, procedures and practices
- Actively avoid re-traumatization
The principles of trauma-informed care are important for both clients and providers to understand.
What are some trauma-informed care examples?
Trauma-informed care can sound vague without specific examples of how it can be implemented. Here are a few case scenarios in which a trauma-sensitive approach can be more effective than a generic perspective.
- An adult who immigrated to the United States after living in a refugee camp for years faces particular obstacles. Due to a language barrier, he has been unable to find work and started selling drugs in order to be able to buy food. Once he started using the drugs, he quickly became addicted. Trauma-informed treatment should be sensitive to the emotional toll of living as a refugee. Additional services should be offered to assist with English language learning, job skills such as resume writing and aid with housing arrangements upon discharge.
- A young female has recently escaped a sex trafficking situation. She seeks inpatient recovery but has nowhere to live after treatment is completed and fears for her safety, even around other men in the facility. Trauma-informed care can ensure that she has access to private and female-only spaces when she is feeling triggered to avoid re-traumatization. She may benefit from a stay in a long-term sober living home for women.
These trauma-informed care examples can help illustrate how personalized treatment can benefit individuals in recovery who already face so many barriers to success. The principles of trauma-informed care ensure that any underlying issues in addiction are addressed and provide clients with extra support.
Taking advantage of trauma-specific care
Find meaningful treatment with dignity at Silvermist Recovery. Reach out to learn about Silvermist Recovery’s trauma-specific treatment and schedule an appointment.