Individuals with chemical dependency and mental health issues often have an increased likelihood of having experienced trauma in the past. Psychological issues like trauma often contribute to drug or alcohol abuse. Fortunately, trauma can be treated, and those dealing with a co-occurring disorder benefit greatly from simultaneous treatment for addiction and mental illness.
Each individual has a set of unique experiences that impact the way they think about themselves and the world around them. These experiences affect how they respond to different life events. Those who experience dysfunction or trauma are more likely to turn to a substance to suppress negative or intense emotions. This inability to manage those feelings can stem from family dysfunction, including alcohol abuse and addiction, unresolved grief, divorce, job loss or any type of violence, either witnessed, experienced or perpetrated.
Your Trauma is Unique
The first thing a person seeking treatment learns is that his or her trauma is unique; that “your trauma is yours.” The traumatic event and your unique response to it, belong to you. Many of those in the beginning stages of treatment say, “I wasn’t abused or beaten, and yet I still have this negative self-image.” Trauma doesn’t fit a certain criteria or degree to qualify as trauma. The effects of trauma can stem from something as simple as middle-child syndrome or Dad liking another sibling better, to physical abuse or a natural disaster. Whatever the trauma, the source of your feelings can be discovered through the evaluation process during the course of regular residential treatment.
Working Through Trauma
When trauma is identified, the individual meets with a specialist as part of his or her treatment program. It’s important to keep in mind that recovery is a lifelong journey not a one-time fix. Working through traumatic events and past hurts that contribute to addiction are part of the process.
When it comes to treatment for trauma, or trauma and addiction, our trauma resolution programs provide a variety of options. Currently considered one of the most useful tools for helping individuals heal from trauma is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy.1 EMDR helps those in recovery reprocess memories that still hold intense emotion and often cause the person to relive trauma over and over. EMDR works by helping the person move forward and live life in the present rather than reliving the trauma over and over again. EMDR uses an eight-phase approach to address painful past experiences that continue to be problematic in an individual’s daily life. These include the following therapeutic elements:
- Cognitive behavioral
Treatment focuses on isolating disturbing memories and related events which may be in the past, present or future in order to interrupt the distress patterns they cause.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a clinically-tested form of psychotherapy that focuses on “cognitive defusing.” This therapy helps the addicted person detach from specific thoughts and feelings that enable addiction.3 ACT helps patients take control of their lives and determine how much importance negative thought patterns and habits will receive. By learning to notice and accept unpleasant thoughts or feelings without giving them the power to control behaviors and attitudes, a person can once again enjoy a meaningful life. Instead of changing and eliminating feelings and attitudes as a first step to correct a negative behavior, ACT helps the person in treatment act differently while still having the feeling attached to the behavior. Recognizing that feelings are a natural part of life with regular consequence gives patients a sense of freedom. Patients learn from ACT to accept feelings and move forward rather than fighting them.
Finding Help for Trauma
If you or a loved one struggle with trauma or trauma and addiction, we are here for you. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions about available treatment options. You are no alone. Call us at 901-350-4575.
1 "What is EMDR?" EMDR Institute – EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING THERAPY. Accessed 7 Nov. 2017.
2 "Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)." American Psychological Association. Accessed 7 Nov. 2017.
3 "Acceptance and Commitment Therapy." Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers. Accessed 7 Nov. 2017.