Trauma Informed Care and Addiction Treatment

trauma informed care

Trauma Informed Care and Addiction Treatment

Trauma informed care is a relatively new but increasingly popular practice in the mental health field. It develops from the knowledge that trauma and addiction are closely intertwined. It also recognizes that treatment should be focused on healing trauma rather than just eliminating addiction. Treatment needs to recognize, respect, and honor the life experience of those who have been impacted by trauma. The goal is to provide a safe treatment space for those who have experienced significant emotional wounding because of abuse, neglect, or violence. Here is what you need to know about trauma informed care and addiction treatment.

Types of Trauma

According to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, there are various types of trauma, including:

  • Violence
  • Bullying
  • Natural disasters
  • Sexual assault
  • Neglect
  • Domestic violence
  • Physical abuse
  • Terrorist events
  • Grief

What is Trauma Informed Care?

Trauma informed care is a growing practice in the mental health field. It is an approach that recognizes, respects, and honors the experiences of those who have been through trauma. It acknowledges that survivors of trauma have often experienced significant emotional woundingand that they need different treatment than those who have not been through trauma. The goal is to help clients find healthy ways to process their trauma rather than forcing them to just eliminate their addiction.

When it comes to addiction treatment, trauma informed care acknowledges the issues which can arise for those suffering from substance use disorder. Addiction is often connected to trauma, but so are other issues like depression and anxiety. Therefore, it is important to process all of these areas in a safe and encouraging way.

Benefits of Trauma Informed Care

Exposure to trauma can affect a person’s ability to control impulsive and out-of-control behaviors. The experience of trauma often results in intense feelings of shame as well as hopelessness. Trauma informed care provides a safe place where clients can work through these feelings and learn to trust others and connect with them on an emotional level. Without this, clients may be unable to make healthy decisions about their lives, leading to substance use or falling into unhealthy relationships. Trauma informed care helps individuals recognize threatening situations so they can deal with them in healthy ways.

Safety for Clients

Many times, trauma informed care is set up to be as safe as possible for the client. This often means that there are safety plans in place to protect clients during periods of crisis, and boundaries are set up so the client knows what they can and cannot do while participating in treatment. The reasons for these rules will be discussed with a client so they know why the rules are in place.

When a person has experienced trauma, it is important that they feel safe at all times. This is especially true when they are participating in treatment. While many people fear treatment and feel uncomfortable, traumatic experiences can result in trust issues and a lack of emotional safety. Clients should feel safe to express themselves without being judged or shamed, and they should be able to disclose any trauma related information without it being used against them.

In the mental health field, there is often a lack of understanding about the trauma associated with addiction. Trauma informed care is an ongoing process of educating yourself and your team about addiction, trauma, and the connection between the two. When you work to understand these connections, your treatment will be more effective.

Avoid Risk of Re-Traumatization

In many cases, a person with addiction has experienced several traumatic events. For example, they may have been the victim of sexual abuse or domestic violence. They are then faced with the risk of being re-traumatized when seeking treatment for their addiction.

This is why it is important to provide trauma informed care in all treatment centers that treat people who are victims of trauma. When a client feels safe and comfortable in their environment, they will be able to process their feelings and work through issues associated with their trauma. This will result in a higher level of satisfaction with their treatment and, ultimately, a reduction in the likelihood of re-traumatization.

Peer Support

There are times in recovery when people feel alone. They may have been shamed or judged by others because of their addiction. They can feel like no one understands what they are going through. Peer support groups can be beneficial in helping these individuals develop a sense of belonging and acceptance.

Losing one’s identity may be a common experience among trauma survivors. Some of the symptoms that can accompany this experience include feeling isolated and alone, being unable to trust others, and having a reduced sense of self. Peer support groups can help people with their recovery by allowing them to feel connected to others who have also dealt with similar traumas or issues. Through these connections, survivors can feel less isolated and more empowered to continue their healing process.

Connection Between Trauma and Addiction

For many people, addiction is a way of coping with the aftereffects of trauma. In an effort to feel better, some people turn to alcohol or drugs. Others use different methods to numb themselves, including abusive relationships, gambling, and shopping. The way in which people seek out such coping mechanisms can vary greatly. The common denominator is that they are all ways that someone who has experienced trauma may be trying to feel better or escape their pain.

Types of Trauma Informed Therapy

According to TraumaInformed Care in Behavioral Health Services, there are many types of trauma informed therapy, such as:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Cognitive processing therapy

Evidence-Based Practice

Trauma informed care is an evidence-based practice. What this means is that the effectiveness of treatment has been proven by scientific research. Evidence-based practice reduces the chance that patients will relapse.

Trauma informed therapy can be very beneficial in recovery. Contact Harmony Stuart, a Florida drug treatment center, to speak to a member of our staff about trauma informed care and other treatment options. We’re here to help on the road to sobriety.

5 Reasons to Go to Rehab

woman sitting outside with a coffee thinking about going to rehab

Why Should I go to Rehab?

You’re fine, right? You’re doing just dandy. The world is your peach. You can quit anytime you want. You just don’t want to. Only alcoholics go to meetings. You only smoke, drink, snort, inject, whatever, to keep yourself calm. It’s the world that needs to sit itself down. Mellow itself out.

Have you got a lush, rich lifestyle? You’re rolling in more money than Jordan Belfort, the Wolf of Wall Street? No doubt. Your business is at an all-time high. Your relationships thrive. Healthwise, you’ve never felt better. Other people are the problem. They need to leave well enough alone. Just get out of your way and let you do you.

Quick question, though.

How’s all that working out for you?

Thrown Into The World

You didn’t ask to be born when you were. Where you lived in the world. Who your family members were. Your genetics. As far back as you can remember, life’s just sort of…been this way. You just woke up here. And then it was all up to you. To figure life out all on your own. To describe these feelings, German philosopher Martin Heidegger coined the term “thrownness.” Here’s your life, with its predetermined set of circumstances over which you had no control. How do you orient yourself on this rock that meanders through space around a giant ball of fire? What are you here for? How do you decide what is important and what isn’t?

Contemplate? Or Self-Medicate?

It’s not like there are easy answers to these questions. How are you supposed to figure it out? Just thinking about it provokes a headache. To think about such things unsettles us. Dread, anxiety, anger. We don’t want to contemplate why we’re here. We don’t know our purpose. We cannot find meaning. So we wander through life, drifting about like ships without rudders. We feel nothing. We want nothing. We love nothing. No wonder we turn to substances for relief! At least they make these feelings go away for a little while!

What’s Rehab For?

Don’t repeat the refrain of the late Amy Winehouse. Consider rehab. You know your life has problems. You just don’t want to say it out loud. Because that will make it true. And you know what? It’s ok that you don’t want to say it out loud. Nobody wants to. But those who do say it out loud reap benefits. They can learn how to assemble their lives around a purpose. They can form deep interpersonal relationships. They can find a meaning and direction that offset the dread of “thrownness.” Still not convinced? No problem. Here are five reasons to consider rehab.

Rehab Is Cheaper Than Addiction

There’s no two ways about this. Addiction is expensive. Whether it’s cash, or some illicit form of bartering, the cost of addiction far outweighs the cost of rehab. To afford your substance of choice requires a job. Well now, that’s complicated. You need a job to make money. You need money to buy your substance. But if you consume your substance at work (or come to work after consuming it), then you get fired. Bit of a catch 22, isn’t it? On the other hand, most addiction recovery centers offer treatment options for people who don’t have jobs or insurance. And, at least in the beginning, rehab centers expect that you’ll show up after consuming your favorite substance! That’s kind of what you’re there for. They might be a little more willing to accommodate you than, say, your employer might.

Rehab Is Cleaner Than Addiction

Substance abuse treatment centers are medical facilities. As such, they value hygiene. The floors, the walls, the carpets, the furniture. Their staff clean and sanitize everything. Particularly since the COVID-19 epidemic, treatment centers have tightened up their tidying. But when you’re nurturing an addiction, you don’t know what you’re consuming. You don’t know what else is in your substance of choice. What it’s been mixed with. What tools or instruments were used in manufacturing it. Does the provider of your specific supplement wash his/her/their hands regularly? Do they sanitize their equipment? Has your product passed through industry standards?

Rehab Provides Order And Structure

Let’s face it. When you’re struggling with addiction, you don’t exactly keep regular hours. You might sleep thirty minutes a night. Or, you might sleep for two entire days. Maintaining that 9-to-5 likely isn’t in the program for you in this season. Same with food. You might eat three pounds of food at one meal. And then not eat again the rest of the week. You probably aren’t hydrating that well either. What about exercise? Substance use disorder doesn’t leave a ton of room for zumba or weight training. In treatment, you’ll learn how to regulate your biology. You’ll form habits around sleeping and waking. You’ll learn about nutrition. And you’ll be able to move and test your body in ways that preserve your health.

Rehab Is Less Fatal Than Addiction

From May 2019 until May 2020, the CDC recorded their highest number of drug overdose deaths. Over 81,000. That’s the highest number of deaths in a 12-month period. Ever. The CDC also estimates that about 95,000 people each year die as a result of excessive alcohol consumption. Do you know how many people die because they go to rehab? Zero. True, not everyone who goes to rehab stays sober forever. Not everyone who goes to rehab survives their addiction. But the decision to continue a pattern of addiction always comes with the risk of death.

Rehab Can Help You Find Meaning

Remember that sensation of “thrownness?” That gnawing, aching, anxious feeling in your gut that just won’t go away? Feelings like that lie beneath addictions. Addictions don’t just happen. There are problems under the addiction that you must deal with. Broken relationships. Wounds to your psyche and emotions. Adverse childhood experiences. Mental illnesses. Enrolling in treatment assists you with probing deep into these problems. Not to help you become sober. But to help you heal. To become whole. Because wholeness is really what rehab is all about.

How to Protect your Sobriety on the 4th of July

Celebrating 4th of July Sober

As one of America’s booziest holidays, the Independence Day can be a major trigger for people in recovery. How can I still enjoy the holiday without risking my sobriety? We asked some sober friends for their tips on navigating the 4th of July while in sober. 

1. Don’t Pressure Yourself to Do Something

This year may be a bit easier to sit out than usual. With COVID-19 case numbers spiking across the country, big parties and gatherings for the holiday are less common. But if someone you know is having a party, and you feel unsure, you can always skip it. Don’t pressure yourself.

Mike, founder of I Will Not Drink With You Today, says “Holidays come and go, there’s no reason you can’t sit this one out. If you feel like going somewhere may trigger you to drink, ask yourself: ‘Is it worth risking my sobriety?’ The answer is always no. Camp at home and watch how nothing is different afterward.” 


2. Prepare your Coping Skills and Bring Them With You

If you are going somewhere, be prepared. Think about ways in which you can cope with any triggers that may arise. Amanda Gist, mental health and addiction speaker, suggests “excusing yourself for a ten minute walk, doing some deep breathing in the bathroom, or applying lavender essential oil to your neck and wrists to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Another option would be to have a friend you can reach out to via text with the agreement that they’ll help you untangle the thoughts you’re struggling with in the moment of the trigger.” Keep a list on your phone of the various portable coping skills you can use if you find yourself in trouble. 


3. Prepare Yourself for Questions, and Have Answers at the Ready

When you’re sober, being offered a drink at a party can be uncomfortable. Do you tell them your life story? Do you clam up? Amanda suggests having a verbal response prepared, so you won’t be stumbling around for words. “Have a few reliable one-liners. You could use the simple, but effective ‘No thanks, I don’t drink.’ Or the grateful but stern, ‘I appreciate the offer, that’s so thoughtful of you but I’m not drinking.’ Or you can always offer an alternative by saying ‘I don’t drink alcohol but I’d love a lemonade if you have one!’”


4. Bring a Substitute

Speaking of alternatives, Megan Kioulafofski, owner of Sol and Spirit, has a remedy for the sometimes awkward feeling of not having something in your hand whilst mingling. She says bringing a safe, non-alcoholic drink helps to avoid the awkward “you’re not drinking?” comments and also helps her feel like she isn’t missing out on anything. “I love to mix Kombucha with soda water, it has a nice bite to it,” she says. 

If you are going the substitute route, try to make sure your non-alcoholic drink choice avoids triggers. 


5. Be Ready To Remove Yourself if Needed

Joanne Ketch, of Chrysalis Counseling says, “Have your ‘outs’ ready and be willing to use them. The out can be physically leaving but it can also be a smaller ‘out’ such as a text, phone call or video chat with someone who can talk you through what you’re experiencing.” Planning ahead will help protect your sobriety in the event that the situation no longer feels safe.



Ultimately, we hope you have sober fun this 4th of July, in a way that feels safe to you. Whether it’s spending time at home with a pack of sparklers and a close friend or getting out and going to a party, a bit of planning will keep your sobriety safe. Thinking things through and preparing for different scenarios will mean you aren’t caught off guard or putting yourself at risk. 

And if you find yourself struggling or in need of support, we’re always here for you. Call us anytime. 

What is the Vagus Nerve and How Could it Support Addiction Treatment?

Vagus Nerve Stimulation for Addiction Treatment

Vagus Nerve Stimulation is showing promise as an addiction and Substance Use Disorder treatment. While still in early stages of research, animal studies have found that Vagus Nerve Stimulation results in a reduction in drug-seeking behavior and cravings. 

What is the Vagus Nerve? 

The Vagus Nerve runs from the brainstem through the face and down to the colon, winding through various organs along the way. It is the longest and most complex of the 12 cranial nerves. 

The Vagus Nerve provides both sensory and motor functions for various parts of the body. Sensory information in the esophagus, larynx, lungs, heart and digestive tract come from the Vagus Nerve. It also affects various motor functions in the body. The Vagus Nerve stimulates muscles in the heart, where it lowers resting heart rate. It also stimulates muscles in the intestines to move food through the digestive tract. 

Vagus Nerve Stimulation 

VNS has had FDA approval for treatment of epilepsy, depression, and chronic inflammation for years. Researchers are also exploring VNS as a treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. However, VNS has been trending in wellness circles lately due to its ability to pacify the Central Nervous System (CNS). When we stimulate the Vagus Nerve we can bring the nervous system out of the Sympathetic Mode (“Fight or Flight”) and into the Parasympathetic Mode (‘Rest and Digest”). 

Harvard Health says, “Stimulating the vagus nerve activates your relaxation response, reducing your heart rate and blood pressure.” One of the reasons deep breathing is so effective at calming the body is because it stimulates the Vagus Nerve, albeit to a lesser degree than the electronic stimulation seen in research studies. 

Now, researchers are looking at the Vagus Nerve’s connection to brain plasticity as a way to reduce drug-seeking behaviors and cravings among people with Substance Use Disorder and addiction. 

Vagus Nerve Stimulation to Support Addiction Treatment

In a 2016 study at University of Texas at Dallas, rats were taught to press a lever to receive a hit of cocaine, became addicted, then were weaned off the drug. Later, when the lever and associated cues were re-introduced, the rats exhibited severe drug cravings and relapse into drug-seeking behaviors. 

However, rats that received VNS therapy engaged in these behaviors at a much lower rate. In fact, the VNS some rats pressed the lever as much as 50% less than their non-treatment counterparts. These results show that they were experiencing less cravings. VNS was found to alter plasticity in the brain to facilitate “extinction learning”. This refers to the gradual reduction of a conditioned response. In the case of the addicted rats, VNS was able to create new reward behaviors. 

After the study concluded, Dr. Sven Kroener, the study’s lead researcher, said “VNS treatment may reinforce abstinence, eventually weaning patients off the drug-related behavior and protecting them better from cravings.” 

Currently, a study is underway at an undisclosed university, wherein they are testing the effects of VNS on people with Alcohol Use Disorder. More studies are necessary to determine how best to implement VNS in addiction treatment but preliminary results are very promising. We will look forward to learning more about VNS as a treatment for Substance Use Disorder and addiction. 


7 Don’ts for Discussing Someone’s Addiction With Them

How to not to Talk about Addiction with a loved one

All loved ones of addicts reach the point where they need to discuss the problem with the person directly. In doing so, you have a chance to convince them to get them the help they need. But you also run the risk of pushing them away and further isolating them in their addiction. Learning to talk to your loved one about their addiction in a way that feels safe is the best way to get them the help they need. 

Avoiding saying or doing these important “Don’ts” will help you create a safe space and help get the best possible result for your loved one. 



1. Don’t Berate, Belittle or Blame


Accusatory tactics like these will likely result in your loved one feeling defensive, angry, and even storming out. Addicts are in a fragile state and are quick to emotionally spiral, which typically drives them to use in order to soothe their pain. Avoid these three B’s to maintain a safe and constructive environment. 



2. Don’t Make It All About You


Your experience of their addiction is part of this, of course, but right now the goal is to get your loved one the help they need. Try to make sure you’re focusing on them. Have you noticed they seem unhappy? Do they look different than they used to? Is their health declining? Rather than focusing on how you’ve been treated, focus on them. Your relationship to their addiction can be discussed later, once they are safely in treatment.  



3. Don’t Attempt to Know What They are Feeling or Experiencing


It is best not to talk to your loved one as if you know what it is like to have an addiction (unless of course you actually do). Every addict’s struggle is unique. Instead of trying to assume what they are going through, ask them. Opening the dialogue creates a space for honesty, transparency, vulnerability and ultimately, change. 



4. Don’t Pass Judgement


In creating a safe and open space, you may learn things you didn’t expect. If they are telling you things that make you  feel inclined to judge their behavior. Don’t. Whatever you do, do not judge them. Support them, listen to them, offer to help. Know that addiction is a disease that takes people away from their true selves. Their addict behaviors are not indicative of them as a person. 



5. Don’t Raise Your Voice


This is a surefire way to create a heated argument, which is very unlikely to end in a positive outcome. Sometimes a person in active addiction will feel accused by any discussion of their substance abuse. Keep your voice level, even if your loved one does not. Do not engage with any outbursts, stay calm, and maintain the safe space. 



6. Don’t use this as an opportunity to air all your grievances 


You might be angry or hurt over things that have happened during their active addiction. It’s understandable and ok to feel these things, but now is not the time to raise them. For now, do not criticize, express anger, or bring up the past in a negative way. The only things you should be talking about are your concerns for their safety and wellbeing. Again: safe space. 



7. Don’t Lose Sight of Your Goal


Keep reminding yourself of the purpose of this conversation: To get your loved one into treatment. Before speaking ask yourself, will what I’m about to say bring us closer to this goal? If the answer is uncertain, don’t say it. 


We hope this helped you learn how not to talk to a loved one about their addiction. However, if you feel you need more help or would like guidance on how best to get your loved one in to treatment, our expert team at Harmony Recovery Group can help. Call us today. We’re here to support you.

Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorder: What You Should Know

Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorder

Schizophrenia is a very serious mental disorder which can be devastating to those affected and their families. It is thought to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and is estimated to affect between 0.5% and 1% of the population. Because of its debilitating effects, Schizophrenia often goes hand-in-hand with Substance Abuse Disorder. 

Movies and TV shows have created a lot of misconceptions when it comes to Schizophrenia which we’d like to clear up. People with Schizophrenia do not all live in mental hospitals. Not all of them are homeless and they do not have multiple personalities. 

Treatment is possible and typically includes medication and psychiatric support on a long-term and often lifelong basis. However, it is important to note that because Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorder are very closely linked, addiction treatment is often needed to improve outcomes.  


Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

  • Seeing, smelling, or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • Paranoia and delusions
  • The “flat effect” wherein the patient loses the ability to feel emotions
  • Trouble with logical thinking
  • Disordered thoughts and speech
  • Problems with attention, concentration and/or memory
  • Self isolation and social withdrawal 
  • Loss of personal hygiene 
  • Unexplained fears of basic things like eating or drinking


Four Subtypes of Schizophrenia

There are four types of Schizophrenia which bear the name of their dominant symptom. They are follows:  


Paranoid Schizophrenia

People with Paranoid Schizophrenia are consumed by the idea that they are being persecuted, threatened, or controlled by people or even inhuman forces. As a result of this paranoia, Paranoid Schizophrenics are usually socially isolated and can act with hostility, irritability and be perpetually afraid of others. They may often hear voices telling them to harm themselves or others. Hallucinations and delusions are very prominent in this type of Schizophrenia. 


Disorganized Schizophrenia

Disorganized Schizophrenics often exhibit bizarre behaviors, incoherent speech, chaotic thought patterns, and unusual emotional reactions. As a result, they tend to have trouble holding a job, taking care of themselves, and interacting with others. 


Residual Schizophrenia

Residual Schizophrenia is when someone has been affected by the disorder in the past but is no longer exhibiting obvious symptoms. For example, a patient may not experience the more debilitating aspects of the disorder such as hallucinations or paranoia, but are still affected by some of the less severe symptoms.


Undifferentiated Schizophrenia 

This form of Schizophrenia typically defies categorization, as symptoms don’t fit specifically into one of the other subtypes. They might have a milder experience than is clear for diagnosis, or only show some of the symptoms for diagnosis.


Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse

Therapists often consider substance abuse to be a side effect of Schizophrenia. Studies have shown substance abuse rates among people with Schizophrenia is 50% higher than that of the general population. 

For example, the use of alcohol is common among people with Schizophrenia. Because alcohol dampens neurotransmitter activity in the brain, it slows things down. For people with Schizophrenia, this slowing can temporarily quiet the noise of a brain that runs on high speed all day long. 

Unfortunately, abusing a substance like alcohol doesn’t actually help treat the problem. Instead, it can actually exacerbate some symptoms. For example, alcohol can make hallucinations more pronounced. Furthermore, the lowering of inhibition from alcohol use also makes the erratic behaviors associated with Schizophrenia much harder to control. 

Proper treatment of both Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorder together can help patients have the best chance at long term recovery and a normal life. 


Treatment for Addiction and Schizophrenia 

Medication in combination with Psychological therapy is an important aspect of Schizophrenia treatment. While it cannot cure the disorder, medication can help mitigate symptoms so that patients can lead normal lives. Furthermore, therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Family Systems Therapy, and Trauma Therapies can be very helpful in working through the emotional and psychological trauma caused Schizophrenia. 

If you or a loved one are suffering with Co-occurring Disorders like Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorder, contact us today. We are here to help.