Seeking Safety & Other Trauma-focused Therapies
After traumatic experiences, the human system of self-preservation goes on permanent alert, as if danger might return at any moment.
Benefits of Seeking Safety & Trauma-focused Therapies
Since AAC offers a full spectrum of dual diagnosis treatment services to each client based upon his/her individual needs as assessed through comprehensive evaluations at admission, our clinicians formulate each integrated treatment plan based on the client’s needs, strengths, preferences and experiences. This treatment plan, which will be evaluated throughout the client’s participation in the program, can address certain issues that may play a role in his/her behaviors, such as traumatic experiences and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Trauma-focused Therapy & Treatment Definition
Since many individuals with substance abuse issues have used substances (alcohol, drugs, food) to escape or “numb” the pain of past traumatic events or co-occurring PTSD, one component of our AAC dual diagnosis curriculum is the use of trauma-focused treatment modalities.
Exposure to traumatic experiences, especially those occurring in childhood, has been linked to substance use disorders, including abuse and dependence. Substance use disorders are highly co-morbid with PTSD and other mood-related psychopathology. The link between trauma exposure and substance abuse has been well established.
According to studies at Emory University (as reported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine), traumatic life experience, such as physical/sexual abuse and neglect, occurs at alarmingly high rates and is considered a major public health problem in the United States. Early trauma exposure is known to significantly increase risk for a number of psychiatric disorders in adulthood, although many who had childhood trauma exposure are quite resilient. Ample evidence has shown that childhood trauma compromises neural structure and function, rendering an individual susceptible to later cognitive deficits and psychiatric illnesses, including schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and substance abuse.
For example, in the National Survey of Adolescents, teens with a history of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and sexual assault were three times more likely to report past or current substance abuse than those without a history of trauma. In surveys of adolescents receiving treatment for substance abuse, more than 70% of patients had a history of trauma exposure.
AAC & Trauma-focused Therapy
Since research has consistently demonstrated that individuals who suffer from trauma or PTSD are more likely to have problems with substance dependence, we think it’s important for AAC clients with co-occurring PTSD to process the trauma as a part of their treatment. To address the effect that trauma plays on the individual’s life including his/her problems with substance use, our program focuses on engaging our clients in therapeutic self-exploration groups that encourage moving past the trauma experiences without relying on the numbing effects of substances as self-medication.
To help our clients who have co-occurring PTSD or have suffered debilitating effects of traumatic life events, our groups, including Seeking Safety interventions (offered at select treatment centers) can help clients recognize:
- Subjective emotional experience defines events as traumatic
- It is possible to experience trauma vicariously just from watching or hearing about others’ traumatizing events
- It is possible to heal and move forward
- Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD
- Even when coping with symptoms and feelings, it is normal for emotions to be sometimes triggered by events
- With appropriate treatment, self-help strategies and support it is possible to recover from emotional and psychological trauma
Seeking Safety (And Other Trauma-focused Therapies)
Seeking Safety is a present-focused therapy that helps clients attain safety from trauma (including PTSD) and substance abuse by emphasizing coping skills, grounding techniques, and education. Developed under a grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) by Lisa M. Najavits, Ph.D., this highly effective, research-based therapy has several key objectives including:
- Helping clients attain safety in thinking, emotions, behaviors, and relationships
- Providing clients integrated treatment of substance abuse and trauma conditions
- Counteracting loss of ideals experienced from substance abuse and trauma
Unlike psychological disorders, the core issue in trauma is reality.
Bessel A. van der Kolk Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society
Offered at select facilities, AAC may recommend trauma-focused treatment techniques to be used as a mono-therapeutic approach for addiction treatment or in conjunction with other therapies (i.e. psychopharmacology, individual therapy, group therapy, etc.), depending on the client’s treatment plan. When we speak about providing trauma-focused treatment sessions for our clients, AAC clinicians do so as part of their overall recovery program.
Our trauma therapy services include therapeutic techniques using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which center on the relationships between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. By changing the harmful thought processes of clients, their likelihood of long-term recovery increases. Besides Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), trauma therapy practices such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Seeking Safety sessions and more are utilized.