Many of the people who come to Caron for treatment are dealing not only with addiction but also with trauma. A disturbing event or situation creates psychological trauma when it makes it difficult or impossible for a person to cope.
The person who experiences trauma may feel out of control or dehumanized. Trauma may induce a sense of powerlessness, fear, recurrent hopelessness, and a constant state of alertness or anxiety.
Symptoms of Trauma
If you are a family member or friend of someone with a substance use disorder, it’s important to recognize trauma symptoms and how to help the person who has it. Some common symptoms of trauma are nightmares or flashbacks, avoiding situations that remind the person of the traumatic event, being keyed up and/or easily startled, inability to form healthy relationships, and feeling unworthy of good relationships or treatment.
Help Them Find the Right Treatment
It’s important that your loved one find a therapist that specializes in treating trauma and addiction. Research shows that concurrent treatment is most effective. These are some questions to ask when looking for a therapist:
• What kind of training do you have in treating trauma? Addiction?
• Where did you get your training?
• Are you continuing to get training?
• How many years have you treated patients with trauma? Those with addiction?
• Do you use evidence-based treatments? What treatments do you use?
• How well are people when they finish therapy/what are your outcomes?
How You Can Help
The most important thing you can offer the person who has experienced trauma is support and understanding. Don’t judge their feelings. Let them know that you understand why they have the feelings they do and offer them a listening ear. They realize you can’t solve the problem for them, but they will appreciate the opportunity to talk about what they are experiencing.
Encourage them to get help and support and provide resources, like participating in a trauma survivor’s group or therapy, for example. Let them decide what works best for them. Having a sense of control over their lives is important.
Well-meaning friends or family members may try to help in ways that can make the experience of trauma more difficult. For example, forcing the person talk about the trauma or shaming them for behaviors like cutting or anger that may have helped them survive will not resolve the trauma. Telling them it didn’t happen or that they just need to forget about it can also create barriers to healing.
It is likely to take a lot of patience and work as you support your loved one. Keeping track of your feelings and acknowledging them without necessarily acting on them may help both you and your loved one.
You may also notice signs that you are experiencing the effects of trauma vicariously. Exhaustion, physical ailments, negative/distorted thought patterns, and relationship changes may signal that you need to seek care and support for yourself.
Dealing with the effects of trauma is an important step to building a healthy life and enjoyable worthwhile relationships. As a family member or friend, you can support your loved one as they deal with trauma and help them in the healing process.
Trauma and PTSD Treatment at Caron
The first step in treating trauma in the context of addiction is to identify it. At Caron, we look for signs of trauma responses or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during a patient’s initial psychological assessment. If a trauma response or PTSD is identified, the psychologists and the trauma team work closely with the patient to develop an individualized plan to integrate trauma and addiction treatment that will address their needs.
This may include:
• Evidence-based treatments to address trauma symptoms, which may include Cognitive Processing Therapy, Prolonged Exposure Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
• Specialty groups to address coping skills for anxiety, depression and cravings
• Trauma-sensitive yoga
• Trauma-focused Art Therapy Groups
To learn more about how trauma is treated at Caron click here or call 800-678-2332.