As a professional in the field of addiction recovery or mental health, you know the basics of trauma-informed care. You can probably identify or even diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and trauma may even be your specialty. But have you ever considered learning more? Sometimes, it is easy to become certified and work with clients, but especially if you work with a lot of clients with trauma, you may want to be sure that you are offering the best care for trauma and PTSD.
Understanding Trauma and PTSD
Many of those who choose to work in addiction recovery or the field of mental health have experienced trauma or PTSD themselves. Whether it was from childhood, a natural disaster, losing a loved one, an accident, abuse, poverty, violence, bullying, or more, traumatic experiences affect you differently than other experiences. They can cause us to get “stuck,” which can interfere with emotional, physical, social, or intellectual development.
Trauma that becomes “stuck” can become PTSD, impacting feelings of safety and well-being and creating anxiety or even depression. This pain that has stayed inside without healing often leads people to self-medicate or engage in risky behaviors. For your clients, in particular, traumatic experiences can impact their lives on a daily basis.
Respecting Clients Who Have Experienced Trauma
While it is important to respect boundaries with all clients, not all clients are the same. Those who have experienced trauma need those boundaries even more. Showing respect for them and their safety is one of the most important steps in developing safety and trust in the provider-client relationship.
A teen who was physically abused may flinch at even the slightest touch, so it is important to remember and respect their space. A client who suffered sexual trauma at the hands of a male may be easily triggered by working with a male, so it is crucial to acknowledge and set boundaries right away to provide respect and safety for their pain.
Learning About Different Treatments
Perhaps you have always used cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to treat clients with trauma. Certainly, it is an evidence-based practice and widely used for treatment. But have you looked into cognitive processing therapy (CPT), a specific type of CBT? Or how about prolonged exposure therapy, which is another type of CBT in which the approach is very gradual? Hypnotherapy may not be an evidence-based practice, but there may be clients for which this is the only type of treatment that works.
Reading, attending conferences, taking classes, and talking to fellow addiction recovery and mental health care providers are all excellent ways for you to learn about new treatments. Sometimes, something will work with a specific client, and you keep it in your toolkit to refer to later. The most important reason to learn about different treatments is the improved ability that it will give you to help your clients.
Improving Your Skills
When was the last time you took a class or attended a conference about trauma or trauma-informed treatment? By learning more about treatment or becoming certified in a new treatment modality, you improve your skills and can help your clients more. Adding new skills makes you a better mental health care provider, a better person, and more marketable as an employee.
If you work with a lot of clients who have experienced trauma, you could learn eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR.) EMDR is one of the best treatments for PTSD and childhood trauma and does not require an extensive amount of time to become certified in. Consider how much more helpful having this skill in your tool kit would be for your clients.
Talking to Your Clients
Last but not least, talk to your clients. What do you do that makes them feel safe? How did you earn their trust? Are there things that you do that have triggered them or made them feel unsafe? What can you do to improve as a provider of treatment? What would they want you to do differently if you started over again?
Getting feedback from those in your care may be the best way to learn about improving as a trauma-informed provider of addiction recovery or mental health care. Learning from your clients by working with them and helping them heal gives you the best information about what trauma is, how it impacts lives, and how you can help people who have experienced trauma to heal. When you work with a client with substance abuse and possibly a mental health diagnosis, and you can see the breakthrough where at least some of their trauma is resolved, then you can see the difference visibly and in how they behave. That is why it is important to keep learning about trauma.
As much as you may know about trauma or PTSD and how to treat these conditions, new information is always available to help you. As you understand more about trauma and treat your clients who have suffered trauma with respect, you can also learn about different treatments or even become certified in new treatment modalities. Getting feedback from your clients can also help you learn more about trauma and how to treat it. Sustain Recovery is an extended treatment program for adolescents with addiction and co-occurring mental health diagnoses. We specialize in treating trauma and helping teens work through their pain to heal. If you have a client that has had a lot of traumatic experiences or is struggling to stay in recovery in other programs or settings, we may be able to help. Give us a call at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our Irvine, California, treatment facility is right for your client.