Types of Therapies Used to Treat Trauma and Substance Use
Research has shown that treating substance use disorders and trauma together at a substance abuse treatment program is much more effective. You’ll get better results, and you’re more likely to get over both issues at once.
Those who treat both substance use disorders and trauma together are less likely to relapse. They’ll also be at a better mental place. By being in a better mental place, addicts are more likely to stay motivated. They’ll also learn how to use certain tactics to avoid triggers. In short, they’ll get more bang for their buck.
With that said, there are many treatment plans that are designed specifically for dealing with trauma and substance use disorders. These programs tend to be a bit longer.
The first 30 days are used to detox and to break free from withdrawal symptoms.
The second 30 days is used for trauma treatment. There are quite a few different therapies used to treat both substance use disorders and trauma. All have their own unique benefits and strengths.
Take a look at some of the most popular and common options below.
Trauma Release Exercises (TRE)
Trauma Release Exercises are often performed during counseling or therapy. After talking about traumatic events, patients are encouraged to perform a series of exercises. These exercises activate a natural reflex mechanism to help release muscular tension. This helps to loosen up the body.
This method was first designed by observing soldiers in war zones. Whenever soldiers saw a traumatic event, their body would contract and shake. It was an automatic response and something that was happening naturally. The soldiers were even unaware of this phenomenon.
Dr. David Berceli realized that the shaking was caused by stimulations to the sympathetic nervous system. That’s your flight or fight reflexes. To deal with the stress, the brain releases certain chemicals to help the body flee or fight.
If this energy is not released, it stays in the body. This can manifest as a symptom of trauma and can cause a cascade of other symptoms to appear. TRE helps to relieve this tension in the body. When coupled with substance use disorder treatment, it keeps patients sober and relaxed.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)
Often, traumatic triggers cause an addict to use illicit substances again. Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy will help patients identify their triggers. These triggers often cause them to go on autopilot and use drugs again.
The triggers may also cause the user to crave drugs or alcohol. It’s important to substitute the harmful responses to triggers with healthy ones. For example, instead of picking up a bottle when feeling stressed, jog around the block. Poor habits are replaced with self-care habits.
Components of TF-CBT
TF-CBT is normally practiced over several sessions. It is designed to educate the addict, family members, and friends on the impact of trauma. This treatment option is especially popular among children.
Parents will learn how to handle their children’s emotions and behaviors. Both parties also learn how to relax, better manage stress and cope with their emotions.
TF-CBT can help reduce the following symptoms:
- Avoidance of certain situations
- Behavioral problems
- Difficulties in concentrating
- Emotional numbing
- Sexual behaviors
- Trauma-related shame
- Upsetting memories and thoughts
- One-on-One or Group Therapy
Sometimes, the only thing that patients need is someone to talk to. One-on-one or group therapy sessions help patients explore past events and process them. Most drug and alcohol rehab centers recommend trying one-on-one or group therapies even if you don’t struggle with trauma.
In one-on-one therapy sessions, patients tend to feel more comfortable disclosing private details. For example, if someone was raped as a child, they are much more likely to talk about their experience in one-on-one therapy.
On the other hand, group therapy is great for those who are seeking support from others. During group therapy, several people sit down together to discuss their issues. They share their experiences with one another, so they don’t feel as alone.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy was first practiced in 1989. It was developed by Francine Shapiro, and is still used till this day to treat:
- Other mental disorders
It’s difficult to explain exactly how the therapy works. To make it as simple as possible, it basically tries to use rapid eye movements to alter past memories. This technique is supposed to help retrain the brain so that it processes trauma in a different manner.
Patients interested in EMDR will need to complete all eight phases to see results. Each phase is practiced in several therapy sessions until the patients get it right.
The Basics of EMDR
To practice EMDR, patients focus on an object that is several inches away from their faces. The object is then moved back and forth. If done correctly, this should cause the patient to undergo rapid eye movements.
Once this happens, the therapists guide the patients through a mental process. During this mental process, patients can recall traumatic experiences. They can then replace these bitter memories and experiences with empowering ones.