Trauma and Substance Use
The connection between trauma and increased risk of substance abuse disorders is well documented. As a result, most treatment centers and medical professionals in the addiction field can be described as “trauma informed:” their treatment philosophy and methodology takes into account the experiences that might be undergirding a person’s struggles with drugs or alcohol.
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But it is increasingly clear that being “trauma informed” is not sufficient if we are seeking to maximize the effectiveness of treatment–and motivate people to seek treatment in the first place. To achieve those goals, an organization needs to become “trauma responsive.”
What’s in a Name?
So what is the difference between being trauma-informed and trauma-responsive?
Simply put, the former takes trauma into account as a treatment plan is developed. The latter seeks to anticipate the potential existence of trauma so that its aftermath can be appropriately addressed at all levels of an organization.
According to Dr. Stephanie S. Covington and Dr. Sandra L. Bloom, becoming trauma-responsive requires a complete rethinking of how services are provided. Each step of a patient’s interaction with a treatment center must be fully and carefully considered. The design of the website, the ways in which calls are answered, and even the lighting in the parking lot—all of these details and many more are foundational to a trauma-responsive approach to providing services.
Trauma Responsiveness is Not Just for the Care Providers
It is easy to think of treatment and support of clients as the sole purview of those in caregiver roles. After all, caregivers are trained and experienced in helping people. But Covington and Bloom argue that trauma-responsive organizations can only be built when all of the stakeholders come together and agree to shared language and values for talking about–and attempting to lessen the impact of–trauma in the lives the organization touches.
And Covington and Bloom mean everyone: the maintenance staff, the administrative team, the board members—if a person is involved in the operation of a facility in any way, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential to the overall mission, he or she needs to buy into the organization’s trauma-responsive ethos. It isn’t easy, but it is essential for successful application of trauma-responsive practices.
Walking the Walk
The most effective trauma-responsive organizations are those that apply their responsiveness both internally (with staff) and externally (with clients). The healthiest organizations will apply trauma-responsive principles to staff workspaces, interpersonal communication, conflict resolution systems, and more. This consistency of practice is critical if a treatment center is going to truly enact its core values.
And enacting those values is no small matter. Failing to be trauma-responsive can and does result in people not getting the help they so desperately need. The seemingly small things that might go unnoticed day to day by most people might be insurmountable obstacles for someone who battles the effects of trauma on a daily basis.
So What Does This Mean for People Who Are Seeking Help?
It might seem like this distinction between trauma-informed and trauma-responsive is just jargon that has no real meaning for someone seeking treatment. But if you are investigating treatment options (whether for yourself or for a loved one), inquiring whether a recovery center is committed to a trauma-responsive approach is wholly appropriate—particularly if you know that traumatic experiences in the past are contributing to current difficulties.
We Are Committed to Trauma Responsiveness
Everyone at Bel Aire Recovery Center, a leading Kansas addiction treatment center, knows the importance of trauma-responsiveness. We are prepared to help you or your loved one navigate treatment and recovery in a manner that takes into account the full range of challenges you face now and have faced over time. Together, we can chart a path that leads to lasting sobriety as we help you take those all-important first steps.