What Is Trauma-Informed Care? 5 Things You Need to Know

What Is Trauma-Informed Care? 5 Things You Need to KnowShape

Many people with substance use disorders have faced traumatic life events. Trauma-informed care helps many move past this root cause of addiction.

Traumatic life events too often lead to the development of substance use disorder (SUD), which is more commonly known as addiction.

Having experienced trauma can leave people with fear, self-doubt, or even self-hatred, and some may seek to escape these negative feelings through drug or alcohol abuse.

People do not begin feeling this way out of the blue. There are usually events in life that have caused a person to feel unworthy, broken, and lost.

If certain events in someone’s past led to them developing a SUD, understanding that fact is vital in overcoming addiction.

Furthermore, identifying those events and working through the negative emotions they cause will give someone a better chance of recovering and building a life free from the influence of substances and trauma.

This recognition of the role trauma plays in addiction and structuring programs around that trauma is known as trauma-informed care.

The Basics of Trauma-Informed Philosophy

Trauma-informed philosophy stems from trauma-informed care, also known as TIC. It’s a tool used by psychologists, social workers, and other human services. TIC operates under the recognition that trauma has affected everyone in society at some level. When someone enters care for a SUD, it should be assumed that they have undergone trauma.

TIC allows the provider treating the person with a SUD to look at the whole individual, rather than just their addiction. Providers trained in TIC do not automatically make assumptions about the person they are treating. Instead, they will take the time to know and understand the individual to identify the root causes of their SUD.

By doing this, providers trained in TIC can help their patients identify negative self-beliefs and why they believe them. TIC providers then can help their patients work through these traumatic experiences and potentially resolve the negative feelings associated with traumatic events. Overcoming these traumas can help the individual rewrite any false and self-destructive narratives of unworthiness they have told themselves. 

In essence, TIC’s goal is to show patients that regardless of the trauma they have experienced in their lives, they are worthy of love and happiness. They have control of their life stories. More importantly, TIC helps prevent re-traumatization.

What Is Re-Traumatization? 

Re-traumatization is when individuals with trauma find themselves in an environment that triggers memories of a traumatic event. Triggers can include many things, including smells, colors, images, or interactions.

For people struggling with SUDs, encountering a trigger without having the coping mechanisms in place to handle it could compromise their recovery.

Studies have found that people with PTSD sometimes turn to drugs and alcohol to mitigate the effects of being triggered. For many people who have experienced trauma, drug and alcohol use become unhealthy coping mechanisms that they have developed to deal with their trauma. Working through their trauma with a mental health professional and developing alternative coping mechanisms may be necessary for people who have been using substances to cope.

TIC providers understand that it may be essential to limit exposure to triggers while patients are in the beginning stages of recovery from a SUD. Although, triggers cannot be removed entirely from a person’s life, and eventually, people will leave treatment and potentially face their triggers again. While in drug and alcohol treatment, people can develop healthy coping mechanisms as TIC providers work to limit the effects of triggers or resolve them using the following five principles.

The Five Principles of Trauma-Informed Care

In general, TIC consists of five basic principles:

#1. Safety

For someone to recover from trauma, it is essential that the person feels safe physically and emotionally. To establish safety while the person is in treatment, TIC providers will work with clients to remove triggers from their environment and develop boundaries to be respected by the provider and the person’s loved ones.

#2. Choice

Many people who have faced traumatic events do not feel like they have power in their own lives. TOC providers teach clients that they have the right to choose what does and does not happen in their space. To do this, providers will often make it clear to patients the rights and responsibilities they have in their lives and encourage them to make choices that align with their values.

#3. Collaboration

TIC providers will collaborate with their clients when making decisions about their care. Often, people who have gone through trauma have had their power taken away or critical life choices made for them. By sharing decision-making power with their patients, TIC providers restore their patients’ sense of self and control. 

#4. Trustworthiness

A lack of trust in oneself and others is a consistent mark of trauma. TIC providers will communicate boundaries and ensure the tasks they give their clients are provided with clarity. In return, it is vital that the patient also trusts their provider. When that trust is given, TIC providers uphold that trust and the boundaries that their patients set with them. Engaging in interactions based on trust and providing evidence-based care helps the patient regain a sense of self and open up to others, which gives them a better chance of healing.

#5. Empowerment

Empowerment is necessary to overcome trauma. Trauma will often take away a person’s self-confidence, leaving them feeling unable to make good decisions. TIC providers are cheerleaders for their patients, cheering them on every step of the way. They help their clients set goals and develop the skills to reach them. When their patients meet a milestone, they give well-deserved validation and praise.

The Forge Recovery Center Utilizes Trauma-Informed Care

At The Forge Recovery Center, we understand trauma plays a huge role in developing a substance use disorder. Our clinicians recognize that our patients have likely experienced traumatic life events that led to them being in our care. Our trauma-informed philosophy ensures that our patients are provided care based on compassion and healing, as well as an environment free of triggers and substances.

Meanwhile, our staff is well-versed in treating trauma and providing the support our patients need to be confident in their abilities. We know that recovery is hard, but we will be there for you every step of the way to help you resolve your traumas and beat your addiction.

You deserve a life filled with happiness, peace, and health, and we can help you get there. If you are considering treatment for a SUD or have questions about trauma-informed philosophy, contact The Forge Recovery Center today.

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Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

July 1, 2022