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What is Trauma-Informed Addiction Treatment?

What is Trauma-Informed Addiction Treatment?

Individuals who struggle with substance use disorders (SUDs) may have underlying mental or emotional issues.  Therefore, effective addiction treatment must include methodologies that address both the mental and physical factors that have contributed to their substance abuse.  Trauma-informed addiction treatment is an approach that recognizes the influence of trauma on SUDs.  This treatment method aims to help someone identify and manage the underlying factors that influenced their substance use behavior. 

Understanding Trauma and How it Contributes to Addiction

Deep-seated trauma is often the primary cause of a person’s drug or alcohol use.  Whether a traumatic experience was recent or occurred years ago, it can impact a person’s emotional health and daily functioning.  But, in many cases, the individual doesn’t realize the trauma-related emotional problems exist.

Before we talk about trauma-informed treatment, let’s clarify the difference between mental and emotional health.  Mental health affects various areas of a person’s life with a variety of symptoms.  For instance, mood swings, lack of motivation, and depression are some of the symptoms.  Emotional health refers to a person’s ability to express or manage their emotions in a mature, appropriate manner. 

When drugs or alcohol are used to self-medicate mental or emotional health issues, addiction is often the result.  Of course, many people aren’t aware that their substance abuse is a form of self-medication.  But, trauma-informed addiction treatment recognizes the connection between trauma and addiction.  So, the programs are structured to help a person heal emotionally, physically, mentally, and socially to enjoy long-term sobriety.

What Are the Most Common Traumatic Experiences? 

As humans, most of us will experience trauma at some point in our lives.  Trauma can occur in the form of physical damage or emotional wounds. While most physical damage heals over time, emotional scars can last indefinitely.  These emotional wounds can manifest in erratic behaviors, anger, violence, depression, and addiction to name a few.

The most common traumatic events include the following:

  • Victims or witnesses of crime or accidents.  These individuals often struggle with fear, rage, and a sense of helplessness.  These emotions can adversely affect or alter their way of life.
  • Catastrophic events.  Experiencing a catastrophe such as a hurricane, flood, earthquake, fire, or other disaster makes a person feel vulnerable.  They may be on edge, wondering if it’s going to happen again.  Many individuals develop PTSD after experiencing one of these events.
  • Grief after losing a loved one.  Whether the loss was sudden or expected after a long illness, the resulting grief can cause anxiety, depression, and substance use.
  • Military deployment or combat.  Many military veterans struggle with bad dreams, flashbacks, and extreme tension.  These PTSD symptoms often lead a person to use drugs or alcohol as a means of escape.
  • Sexual abuse or other physical violence.  In many sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows.  As a result, the victim fears exposing the crime and will suffer feelings of mistrust and betrayal.  The abused person is often ashamed to talk about the experience or seek medical attention.  This type of untreated trauma can lead to substance abuse.
  • Childhood neglect or abuse.  The effects of childhood trauma can extend far into adulthood.  These individuals often have difficulty forming relationships.  They may show poor performance in school or at work, have low self-esteem, and are more likely to use drugs or alcohol later in life.  

As indicated in the list above, trauma can result in many emotional and mental effects that change the course of a person’s life.  Sadly, substance use is a primary method for coping with the symptoms of trauma.  

How Does Trauma-Informed Addiction Treatment Help?

Understanding the role of trauma in a person’s life is the first step in determining the best treatment approach for their addiction.  Treatment must include methodologies to address both the emotional and physical factors involved.  

If a person doesn’t gain the confidence and skills needed to manage daily challenges, relapse is often the result.  In fact, studies show that about 40 to 60 percent of people relapse within the first few months after leaving rehab.  Of course, this doesn’t mean the treatment was ineffective.  And, it doesn’t mean the person failed at recovery.  Relapse is often an indication that more treatment is needed or that an aftercare program would be beneficial.

What to Expect at Cycles of Change Recovery

At Cycles of Change Recovery, we work with clients to help them identify and learn to manage the underlying reasons for their substance use.  Compulsive behaviors are a result of traumatic experiences.  So, our therapy programs offer a comprehensive approach to treatment, such as:

Our skilled treatment professionals understand that each person responds differently to recovery programs.  Our primary goal is to provide the highest level of treatment with an individualized approach.  In this way, our clients are more prepared to deal with the challenges of everyday life.   With trauma-informed addiction treatment, they gain the skills, confidence, and restored self-esteem necessary for confronting and overcoming those challenges.

When it comes to treating co-occurring disorders such as trauma and addiction, an inpatient or residential program is the most effective.  However, we also provide outpatient programs, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient programs (IOPs).  Also, at our Palmdale, CA facility, you’ll enjoy a comforting, secure environment where you can focus on healing.  

To learn more about our programs, contact us at the toll-free number provided.  One of our representatives is always available to answer your questions and assist you in choosing a treatment plan that is right for your needs.


  • drugabuse.gov – Drugs, Brains, and Behavior:  The Science of Addiction Treatment and Recovery

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