Those with past trauma can benefit from participating in addiction treatment that incorporates trauma-informed care into its programs.

Quality addiction treatment programs must consider the needs of patients. As researchers learn more about the link between trauma and addiction, trauma-informed care has become an important part of treatment at The Recovery Village facilities. 

What Is Trauma-Informed Care? 

Trauma-informed care is a term used to describe interventions that consider the lasting effects of traumatic experiences on clients. These interventions are designed to help clients heal from past trauma while minimizing the stress that comes from being reminded of it. 

Interventions used in trauma-informed care have passed rigorous testing to assess their effectiveness. They also consider the needs of trauma survivors by taking steps to avoid re-traumatization. For example, trauma-informed care considers the fact that the use of restraints and seclusion in inpatient treatment settings can be traumatizing for survivors of abuse, or that certain types of therapy, like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, can help people process trauma and improve present-day symptoms.

Types of Trauma

When a person has a history of trauma, they may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is a mental health condition that occurs after a person experiences a traumatic event or witnesses a traumatic event happen to someone else. 

Some examples of trauma that can lead to PTSD include:

  • Being exposed to war or combat
  • Witnessing or being involved in a terrorist attack
  • Natural disasters
  • Serious accidents 
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Being a victim of child abuse or domestic violence
  • Bullying 

By definition, a traumatic event is anything that is emotionally or physically harmful and threatens a person’s life or well-being. Witnessing such an event happen to someone else, or learning of it, can also be traumatic. 

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Trauma-Informed Care in Drug & Alcohol Rehab

Given the strong overlap between trauma and substance abuse, high-quality drug and alcohol rehab centers operate from a trauma-informed approach. This means that the rehab programs keep the needs of trauma survivors in mind, and staff are trained to consider the lasting effects of trauma. Additionally, many rehab centers in our network offer therapies that have been designed specifically for treating trauma. 

Types of Trauma-Informed Care

There are some specific types of therapy commonly used in trauma-informed care. Not all therapies work for everyone, so finding the right type for you is important.

  • EMDR: Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is commonly used in trauma treatment. This modality allows a person to reprocess a traumatic experience so it is remembered in a different way. A patient undergoing EMDR watches a therapist’s finger move back and forth as they recall a traumatic experience. This allows them to reprocess and remember the experience differently.
  • CPT: Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) helps a person change negative emotions and beliefs related to a traumatic experience. With the support of a therapist, a person participating in CPT is able to confront painful memories related to trauma and develop new ways of thinking. 
  • Prolonged exposure therapy: Exposure therapy gradually exposes a person to triggers related to their trauma in the safety of the therapeutic setting. A therapist guides a person toward gradually approaching their triggers or trauma-related memories while practicing coping strategies. 

Guiding Principles of Trauma-Informed Care

There are six guiding principles underlying trauma-informed care:

  1. Safety: The trauma-informed approach aims to create a sense of safety for patients receiving care. Triggers and flashbacks can cause a trauma survivor to feel as if they are unsafe or reliving the trauma, so a sense of safety is necessary for healing. 
  2. Trustworthiness & Transparency: To develop strong working relationships with treatment providers, trauma survivors must feel that they can trust these providers. Trust can be developed through transparency.
  3. Peer Support: Trauma treatment often involves peer support groups composed of individuals recovering from trauma. Talking with peers who are facing similar challenges can create a sense of safety for trauma survivors. 
  4. Collaboration & Mutuality: Relationships between treatment providers and patients receiving trauma-informed care should be collaborative in nature, with the patient and therapist being seen as equals in the treatment process. 
  5. Empowerment Voice & Choice: Trauma-informed care should allow patients to make choices about their care and give them a voice during the treatment process. 
  6. Cultural, Historical & Gender Issues: Finally, trauma-informed care should consider the influence of cultural, historical and gender-related factors.

How Trauma-Informed Care Helps Veterans

PTSD is common in military veterans. According to research with Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans, 23% of veterans have PTSD. This means that a significant number of veterans are in need of services that are sensitive to their trauma history. 

For many veterans, trauma and addiction can go hand-in-hand. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, over 2 out of 10 veterans with PTSD also have a substance use disorder. This means that many veterans with co-occurring disorders benefit from a trauma-informed approach to help them overcome both addiction and symptoms of trauma.

Trauma-Informed Care at The Recovery Village

Several The Recovery Village facilities offer trauma-informed care for veterans and other trauma survivors. Our facility staff members are specifically trained in trauma treatment for both veterans and civilians, and some of our centers have the FORTITUDE specialty track for veterans and first responders, where they feature:

  • Exclusive group therapy sessions with other veterans and first responders
  • Dual diagnosis care to treat addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions at the same time
  • EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy and CPT (cognitive processing therapy) for the treatment of PTSD 
  • Special training for clinicians in military culture and treating veterans

Our Veteran Advocates work with the VA on the veteran’s behalf to get them the professional treatment they need and help them navigate their VA health insurance.

Call our admissions team and ask for a Veteran Advocate to begin the admissions process and get specialized support.

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Editor – Abby Doty
Abby Doty graduated from Hamline University in 2021 with a Bachelor's in English and Psychology. She has written and edited creative and literary work as well as academic pieces focused primarily on psychology and mental health. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Jenni Jacobsen, LSW
Dr. Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker through the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. She has over seven years working in the social work field, working with clients with addiction-related and mental health diagnoses. Read more

Wilson, Charles; Pence, Donna; & Conradi, Lisa. “Trauma-Informed Care.”>” Encyclopedia of Social Work, November 4, 2013. Accessed July 13, 2023. 

American Psychiatric Association. “What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (P[…]order (PTSD)?” November 2022. Accessed July 13, 2023. 

Brady, Kathleen; McCauley, Jenna; & Back; Sudie. “The Comorbidity of Post-traumatic Stress[…]Use Disorders.” Textbook of Addiction Treatment, November 4, 2020. Accessed July 13, 2023. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Infographic: 6 Guiding Principles To […]med Approach.” September 17, 2020. Accessed July 13, 2023. 

Fulton, Jessica, et al. “The prevalence of posttraumatic stress d[…]meta-analysis.” Journal of Anxiety Disorders, April 2015. Accessed July 13, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “PTSD and Substance Abuse in Veterans”&gt[…]e in Veterans.” Accessed July 13, 2023.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.