Trauma-Informed Care: "What Happened to Me” vs. “What Is Wrong With Me?”

People tend to view their mental health or substance abuse as a defect; however, switching the focus to “what happened to you” instead of “what is wrong with you” has many benefits.

In addiction recovery, it is easy to look in the mirror and falsely assume that you are 100% at fault and responsible for your substance use disorder (SUD). Instead, try taking the focus off of what you have done and place it on what happened throughout your life that caused trauma and subsequent substance abuse. Facing trauma is challenging and painful but can provide many long-term rewards.

What Is Trauma-Specific Care?

Switching the focus on what happened to someone rather than on what is wrong with them positively shifts thinking to the understanding that painful events led to substance abuse. Trauma has a significant impact on an individual’s life, decisions, and mental health. This is taken into consideration in trauma-specific care.

Trauma-specific care must be integrative and simultaneous to create the best outcome. A safe environment that explores what happened without doing further harm is imperative. Trauma and SUD are co-occurring disorders, each with their own symptoms and biological changes that frequently overlap. Successful treatment addresses physical, psychological, and neurobiological issues while considering the traumatic events that cause distressing symptoms and avoiding re-traumatization.

The Core Principles of Trauma-Specific Care

The core principles of trauma-specific care include:

  • A safe environment and emotional safety
  • Trustworthiness, maintaining boundaries, and clear communication
  • Allowing choice and control
  • Collaboration
  • Empowerment and skill-building

Treatments Used in Trauma-Specific Care

There are various treatment modalities used in trauma-specific care, including:

  • Cognitive processing therapy (CPT)
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Exposure therapy
  • Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Integrative therapies

Trauma-specific care allows trauma survivors to create a program that treats the symptoms of a diagnosed mental health disorder like SUD before processing their trauma. During treatment, an individual’s trauma experience is acknowledged, and their emotions are validated; however, they are not expected to describe or relive their trauma. The treatment strategy focuses on developing skills to handle painful emotions and stress in new and healthy ways.

It is not unusual for someone with SUD caused by trauma to avoid processing their trauma, which causes a toxic relationship between their trauma and substance abuse. Trauma and substance abuse both change brain chemistry, so the disorders overlap. However, recovery through trauma-specific care is possible.

Trauma-based treatment must also address the medical and behavioral aspects of substance use disorder (SUD) and provide targeted and in-depth treatment for trauma-related triggers. Identifying traumatic events that led to substance abuse helps individuals in recovery succeed in life substance-free. At The Guest House, we provide integrated trauma-based treatment programs that will help you develop healthy ways to cope with both trauma and SUD simultaneously. To get started with trauma-specific treatment, call The Guest House today at (855) 483-7800.