Trauma-Informed Therapy in Worcester, Massachusetts

At Lake Avenue Recovery, we understand that many people who seek treatment for substance use disorders are also living with the effects of untreated trauma. To best prepare each person to make sustained progress toward a healthier future and successful recovery, we offer trauma-informed therapy and incorporate other elements of trauma-informed care into our addiction treatment programming here in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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What is Trauma-Informed Therapy?

Trauma is unfortunately common, both in the United States and throughout the rest of the world.

According to information collected by the World Mental Health Survey Consortium, more than 70% of people across the globe have had at least one traumatic experience – and more than 30% have endured at least four traumatic events.

The impact of these events can range from temporary distress to the development of serious mental health concerns. For example, the National Center for PTSD has reported that 8% of adult women and 4% of adult men in the United States will develop posttraumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives. In a typical year, the center noted, about 13 million American adults will struggle with symptoms of PTSD.

So What is Trauma?

In the context of addiction and mental health, trauma is a psychological response that occurs in the aftermath of one or more terrifying experiences.

Many people equate trauma with military combat – and while it’s true that armed conflicts can be a source of significant trauma, they are by no means the only events that can prompt this type of reaction. 

The common element among trauma-inducing experiences is that they typically cause a person to fear for their life or the life of someone else.

People can develop trauma in the following ways:

  • Directly experiencing one or more traumatic events
  • Witnessing a traumatic event that occurs to someone else
  • Learning the details of a traumatic experience that involved a loved one

Of course, it is completely normal and understandable for someone to experience a temporary increase in fear, anxiety, and other negative emotions after living through, witnessing, or learning about the types of events that are listed above.

But if the severity and/or duration of these emotions begin to disrupt a person’s ability to function in a healthy manner, this could mean that they need trauma-informed therapy.

About Trauma-Informed Therapy

Trauma-informed therapy, which is a component of a trauma-informed approach to care, is based on the understanding that most people who receive behavioral health services are likely to have been impacted by trauma.

As described by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a trauma-informed approach to treatment is characterized by the following “Four Rs”:

  • Realizing the widespread impact of trauma and understanding potential paths for recovery
  • Recognizing the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others who are involved with the behavioral health care system
  • Responding by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices
  • Resisting re-traumatization by actively taking steps to ensure patient safety and support

What is Trauma-Informed Addiction Treatment?

Trauma-informed addiction treatment does not refer to a specific service or technique. Instead, this term describes the universal incorporation of fundamental trauma-related principles into all aspects of an organization’s functions. 

An organization that takes a trauma-informed approach to addiction treatment acknowledges that many patients, family members, and staff have histories of trauma. Facilities that offer trauma-informed addiction treatment should adhere to the following six principles:

  1. Safety: Everyone (including patients, family members, staff, and visitors) should feel safe at the facility. 
  2. Trustworthiness and transparency: The organization should function in a manner that builds trust among patients, their loved ones, and all staff members.
  3. Peer support: Contrary to a top-down, authoritarian approach, the peer support principle promotes equality and trust within the treatment environment.
  4. Collaboration and mutuality: This principle emphasizes that everyone within an organization – not just the therapists and counselors — has a role to play in supporting the trauma-informed approach. 
  5. Empowerment, voice, and choice: Trauma-informed organizations understand that every staff member, patient, and family member has a unique set of skills, strengths, and experiences – and each of these people deserve individualized attention and opportunities.
  6. Cultural, historical, and gender issues: This principle involves both acknowledging the harm that past cultural biases may have caused and incorporating culturally sensitive techniques for healing.

The Link Between Trauma and Addiction

There is an unfortunately strong association between trauma and addiction. Though trauma often precedes substance abuse and addiction, the cause-effect nature of this association can actually work in both directions: 

  • In many cases, people who have been living with untreated trauma turn to substance abuse in an attempt to temporarily numb themselves to their emotional distress. 
  • In other cases, people may become traumatized by experiences they had while under the influence of alcohol or another drug, or by the cumulative negative impact that addiction has on all parts of their life.

The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) has reported the following statistics about the relationship between trauma and alcohol abuse/addiction:

  • Experts estimate that as many as 75% of people who lived through abusive or otherwise violent traumatic events have engaged in “problematic alcohol abuse.”
  • Between 10%-33% of people who have histories of trauma related to illnesses, accidents, or natural disasters have abused alcohol.
  • As many as 80% of U.S. veterans of the Vietnam War who received treatment for PTSD also had alcohol use disorder (which is the clinical term for alcohol addiction).

Also, studies on the long-term impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACES) indicates that people who were abused, neglected, or otherwise traumatized when they were young have an increased risk for myriad negative outcomes, including mental health concerns, substance abuse, and addiction.

An April 2022 study in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry is one of several research efforts that have documented a link between a person’s risk of addiction and the number and severity of their ACES. 


Four Key Elements of Trauma-Informed Treatment

As established by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), effective trauma-informed addiction treatment should reflect the following four key elements:

  1. Realization: All people who are part of an organization must realize that trauma is a prevalent concern that can play a significant role in the development of mental health disorders and addictions. Staff members should also understand that patients’ maladaptive behaviors may be coping strategies that are related to a history of untreated trauma.
  2. Recognition: Staff members should be able to recognized the sign of untreated trauma among patients, family members, visitors, and other staff members.
  3. Response: The organization should respond to the previous two elements by incorporating trauma-informed principles into all policies, procedures, and programming.
  4. Resistance: In addition to ensuring that all who have been impacted by trauma receive the compassionate care they deserve, a trauma-informed organization should also take all necessary steps to resist re-traumatization among patients and staff.  

How Do I Know I Need Trauma-Informed Therapy?

Many people who are living with untreated trauma don’t realize how severely they have been impacted by difficult moments from their past. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a person to not know they need trauma-informed therapy until they begin to receive treatment for addiction or a co-occurring mental health concern.

If you’re not sure if you can benefit from trauma-informed therapy, here are a few questions that may be able to help you decide:

  1. Have you lived through or witnessed any of the trauma-inducing events that are listed in the first section of this page?
  2. Do you experience vivid nightmares or otherwise disturbing dreams related to one or more of these events?
  3. Have you changed your behaviors to avoid people, places, or situations that remind you of the traumatic event?
  4. Do you often feel that you are in danger or under some type of threat, even when there is little to no reason to believe that you are?
  5. Are you easily startled by loud noises or other unexpected stimuli – and when you are, do you respond in an excessive or exaggerated manner?
  6. Do you continue to be affected by feelings of shame or guilt related to a traumatic experience from your past?
  7. Do you experience dramatic mood changes, which can include lashing out in anger or expressing overwhelming sadness for no apparent reason?
  8. Do you ever feel disconnected from your loved ones, your surroundings, or even your own thoughts and feelings?
  9. Are there ever moments when you feel like you are re-experiencing a traumatic event from your past?
  10. Have you ever used alcohol or another drug in an attempt to block painful feelings that are linked to a traumatic memory?

If you answered yes to any of the questions listed above, you may be an ideal candidate for trauma-informed therapy.

However, please note that neither these questions nor any other information on this page are substitutes for being assessed and diagnosed by a qualified healthcare provider. Trauma and addiction are complex behavioral health challenges. If you think you may be struggling with either of these concerns, consult with a professional to ensure that you receive the right type and level of care.

How Our Trauma-Informed Therapy Programs in Worcester, MA Work

At Lake Avenue Recovery, our approach to treatment incorporates the values of CURE (Compassion, Understanding, Respect, and Empathy). Consistent with the principles of trauma-informed therapy, the CURE values ensure that all patients benefit from features such as:

  • A safe and welcoming environment where all patients, staff, and visitors are treated with respect
  • An understanding that the individuals who choose to heal with us are likely to have been impacted by at least one traumatic experience
  • A commitment to never define our patients by the disorders they have developed or the symptoms they are experiencing

We work closely with each patient to establish an atmosphere of trust and transparency, and we encourage each person to work in active collaboration with the members of their treatment team.

In addition to providing the clinical services that can alleviate symptoms and enhance quality of life, we also focus on empowering our patients to become informed self-advocates so that they can take ownership of their health and continued progress.


Benefits of Trauma-Informed Addiction Treatment in Massachusetts

The specific benefits that a person can receive from their time at a trauma-informed addiction treatment center will depend on their specific needs and goals. In general, though, those who take part in trauma-informed addiction treatment in Massachusetts at our facility can expect the following:

  • A safe, welcoming, and highly supportive environment
  • Personalized attention to identify and address the full scope of your needs
  • A variety of research-based, evidence-supported services
  • A commitment that you will never be defined by your disorder or judged by the decisions you made when you were living with untreated trauma and active addiction
  • Opportunities to learn from and share support with others who have had similar struggles and who are working toward similar goals
  • Encouragement to work in active collaboration with the members of your treatment team, so that you can become an informed self-advocate and take ownership of your recovery
  • Detailed discharge planning to connect you with the resources that will support your continued recovery

Begin Trauma-Informed Therapy for Addiction in Worcester

If you have been struggling with addiction while living with the effects of untreated trauma, Lake Avenue Recovery is here for you. Our trauma-informed addiction treatment center in Worcester, Massachusetts, provides several outpatient and therapy options for adults. 

In each of our programs, you will receive customized services from a team of highly skilled professionals. The members of your treatment team will take the time to get to know you as a unique and valuable individual, so that we can be sure we are delivering the services that will best prepare you for improved health and long-term recovery.

When you’re ready to get started, the Lake Avenue Recovery team is ready to help. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact Us page or call us today.

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