Trauma is prevalent and it’s important that we’re aware of that when working with our clients. In our program, we operate under the assumption that everyone has experienced some form of trauma and we approach each situation accordingly. Whether it be physical or emotional trauma, it takes its toll on a person. Trauma is constantly sucking energy in the background – it’s kind of like when your cell phone has too many apps open and constantly glitches because it’s overprocessing. It is constantly happening in the back of one’s mind, which leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms to quiet the noise.
Individuals who have been battling addiction have often experienced traumatic events that led them to use substances as a coping mechanism, as well as consistent, sustained physical trauma as a result of use. It’s also not uncommon for people who are actively using drugs or alcohol to find themselves in dangerous situations where they may experience violence and/or trauma.
Trauma-informed care is a practice that promotes a culture of safety, empowerment, and healing. It’s imperative that this be part of the standard approach in treatment programs, especially when you take into consideration the staggering statistics surrounding trauma and assault. The CDC reports that in the United States:
When someone experiences trauma, especially at a young age, it can be incredibly difficult and painful to process. Many feel shame, fear, and guilt, and as a result, carry these experiences with them for an extended period of time without getting the help they need.
When meeting with clients it’s important that we explain the process of what’s happening while in our program. If we need to ask sensitive questions, they are framed so that clients understand we’re not negatively judging them, but rather trying to gather as much information as possible so as to provide appropriate medical and clinical care. We also let our clients know that if they need a break all they have to do is request it. Whether it’s during the admission process or during a clinical session, we encourage our clients to take care of their needs by asking for what they need. This can be tough for someone who hasn’t done this so we’re trained to monitor body language – if someone’s body language is saying they need a break, we take a break.
Anyone can have a history of trauma that impacts their encounters with us and with the rest of the world. Trauma can be triggered by many different things and our team is trained to watch for signs of trauma so that we can help our clients in the best way possible. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACEs) by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows a strong link between trauma and health, mental health, substance use, and other social and behavioral difficulties, including suicidal ideations and behaviors and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).
Survivors of childhood trauma are 5,000% more likely to attempt suicide, have eating disorders, or become IV drug users. The ACE study referenced above also has shown that nearly all schools have students who have been exposed to overwhelming experiences. Our program has taken this information and developed an approach similar to that of many school districts. Our focus is on creating a space in which all clients feel safe to heal. We prioritize building healthy relationships, social and emotional skills, and addressing behavior with positive and compassionate approaches, such as Experiential Therapies and Motivational Interviewing. Our focus is more on what our clients need to heal, versus “what is wrong with them.”
The trauma-informed approach is based on the 4 “R’s” –
the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery
the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system
by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices
Through meeting clients where they’re at, our team creates a safe and respectful environment where clients can comfortably begin to open up. It’s extremely difficult to disclose one’s trauma history – many times people will bury events in their mind or do everything they can to forget them or numb the pain (i.e. using substances as a coping mechanism). Within a trauma-informed approach, it’s not always necessary for someone to share the details of their trauma. Our clinical team will help clients to begin healing their trauma by identifying the feelings left behind and processing those feelings in a healthy way. Focusing on resilience by developing coping skills, managing emotions, creating healthy connections with others, and finding hope and purpose can all help clients to heal and become well.
Defining Wellness Centers team is trained in trauma-informed approaches and utilizes a wide range of therapeutic modalities to help our clients heal. Focusing on experiential therapies, which create an action-oriented, therapeutic, multi-level impact on our conscious and unconscious awareness. Through experiential modalities such as art, music, psychodrama, equine therapy, and adventure therapy, along with utilizing traditional modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and motivational interviewing (MI), we support our clients as they address the physical and emotional traumas they’ve experienced.
To heal trauma we work to replace negative experiences with positive experiences. Through doing so, clients start to understand that while the trauma they experienced is part of their story, it’s in the past and not currently happening. When triggered, they can respond with the understanding that “while this happenED to me, it is not happenING to me, and therefore there is nothing I need to do about it right now.” Defining Wellness Centers has cultivated an environment geared toward healing and we encourage and support all of our clients to establish strong roots so that they can not only survive, but thrive.
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