The Importance of Trauma Informed Therapy in Women's Addiction Treatment

trauma informed drug treatment

About 60 percent of adults have experienced abuse during their childhoods. About one in every four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Somewhere between 66 and 99 percent of sexual abuse victims will never tell nor seek help.

Traumatic experiences are not uncommon today. Most likely, someone you know or love has been subject to trauma in some way. And most likely, they hold that experience close. Trauma is a deeply harrowing, emotional response to a stressful or threatful event in one’s life. It can stem from a life-threatening accident, a natural disaster, violence, or abuse. In any case, trauma does not go away once the event has occurred. Trauma stays with a person for months and years after affliction, causing psychological, emotional, and behavioral issues long-term.

According to recent studies, people who have experienced trauma in their lives are 15 times more likely to attempt suicide and 3 times more likely to develop chronic depression. They are also 4 times more likely to become an alcoholic and 4 times more likely to inject drugs, putting them at risk for severe addiction. In fact, up to 59 percent of young people with post-traumatic stress order (PTSD) develop substance abuse problems later in life.

The link between addiction and trauma is undeniable, especially as it pertains to women. Women who have experienced trauma are more likely to use drugs as a coping mechanism for their pain. Women, in comparison to men, are also more susceptible to developing a drug addiction. Research has revealed that 75 percent of female addicts in drug treatment have experienced sexual abuse, 50 percent have experienced physical abuse, and 72 percent have experienced emotional abuse in some way.

It is no wonder, then, why there is an increasing focus on trauma within women’s addiction treatment. A drug addiction cannot be treated successfully without the issue of trauma being addressed. That is where trauma informed therapy comes into play.

Say a young woman was in a two-year relationship with a partner who verbally and physically abused her, someone who made her believe she was overweight and would never find anyone better than him. She went through those two years of life hurting, her self-confidence diminishing, and her hope for the future deteriorating. She started doing cocaine as a means to curb her appetite as well as escape from her reality. She then became addicted and started trying other party drugs like MDMA. When she finally makes it to drug treatment, she need not be treated for her cocaine addiction alone. The deep-seated root of her drug use must also be addressed. If it is not, she may fall back into the drug abuse and addiction cycle once again.

Trauma informed therapy and addiction treatment must be integrated into one, holistic model of treatment for each woman carrying a history of trauma. Only then will women find true recovery. Only then will young women be able to look towards the future and establish a new, sober path.

Treatment professionals who enact a trauma informed therapy model not only realize the impact of trauma, but also understand the many potential paths clients can take towards recovery. They not only recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma, but also respond by fully integrating their knowledge into each practice, procedure, and treatment plan that takes place. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, trauma-informed addiction treatment must reflect six key principles of trauma informed therapy.

The first of these is safety. Each women’s treatment center must establish a comfortable, secure, and confidential environment for each client that walks through its doors. Naturally, victims of abuse or trauma feel unsafe in their bodies. They often feel unsafe around other people and let their emotions, thoughts, and anxieties grow out of control. They need a calm environment to make them feel safe so that the healing process can start to take place.

Trustworthiness and transparency are also key to women’s drug treatment. A woman who has experienced trauma in her life may need help finding her voice. She needs to know that she can trust the people helping her, the people in her support groups and the therapists she talks to. Only then will she open up and begin the healing process.

This ties into the third and fourth principles of trauma informed therapy, which are peer support and collaboration. At Turnbridge’s gender-specific treatment center in Connecticut, we encourage that women build sober support networks with their peers. From week one, our clients are able to interreact and get to know one another through activities, 12-step meetings, and group therapy sessions. These allow young women to relate to one another and build lasting, healthy relationships.

Empowerment, voice, and choice are also key principles to trauma informed therapy. Women who have a history of trauma and abuse most often lack self-confidence. They may feel scared to say what they feel, scared to speak out about their problems, scared of shame and stigmatization. At Turnbridge, we aim to diminish those fears. We empower women to use their voices and to make healthful, sober choices regarding their futures.

Lastly, trauma informed therapy should address any cultural, historical, and gender issues that are present among clients facing a drug addiction. These may include a history of depression, eating disorders, economic instability, domestic violence, anxiety, and more. Without addressing outside, co-occurring issues, clients are more susceptible to re-traumatization and addiction in the future.

Trauma informed care in addiction treatment is essential for women in the recovery process. If you or someone you love is battling addiction, please do not hesitate to reach out. You can learn about Turnbridge’s trauma-informed, residential drug rehab for women in Connecticut by calling 1-877-581-1793.