Many people with addictive disorders have underlying trauma. Often this is what is known as developmental trauma, i.e. embedded in childhood, and might include sudden bereavement, sexual or physical abuse, abandonment, bullying at school, neglect, parental divorce, or the death of a sibling.
Sometimes the trauma occurs in adulthood; a lot of trauma can accompany many people’s experience of active addiction.
Trauma is somaticised, or stored in the body, and can express itself in anxiety, hyper-vigilance, intrusive thoughts, and a need to self-medicate. It may well express itself relationally, in terms of struggling with intimacy or commitment to relationships with others. If trauma is in the picture, then working to resolve it will be an important part of a person’s care plan.
Within the addictions treatment community, there are various schools of thought on when underlying trauma should be addressed. Should it be done in parallel with the addictions treatment, should it be done after the addictions treatment, or should it be done before the addictions treatment?
At Start2Stop, we have the luxury of a long-term treatment process with our clients. This means that if there is underlying trauma, we will be able to pick it up and work with it appropriately. Typically, we believe in helping a person to get stable in their addiction recovery, and will work on helping affected clients develop more awareness of, and insight into, their underlying trauma.
We feel that it is usually prudent to do actual therapy on underlying trauma only when a person is in solid recovery, has developed a strong support system, and has emotional muscle. The timing of a trauma therapy intervention will also be a question that other professionals involved in a person’s care will certainly be involved in answering.
If outpatient trauma therapy is appropriate, we refer to an accredited EMDR therapist who has worked as a consultant for Start2Stop since 2012, and who has helped many people. EMDR is an evidence-based therapy which both the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the NICE guidelines recommend as a safe and effective trauma treatment modality. If residential trauma treatment is appropriate, we might well discuss referral to an appropriate clinic.
For further advice, please contact our office on +44 207 581 4908 or use the contact form on this website to send us your enquiry.