The link between addiction and trauma has been known for a long time — especially in women.
For years, clinical research as well as the experience of our counselors has shown that many women who struggle with substance use disorder have experienced trauma during their lives.
It’s not uncommon for our women to have experienced one or more of the following: emotional, sexual, or physical abuse in the course of their childhood, adolescence, or adulthood; long-term exposure to domestic violence; neglect; and of course the long-term chronic health issues which are often associated with these experiences.
Unfortunately, though the trauma-addiction link has been well documented and is well known, a trauma-informed curriculum for addiction recovery is considered relatively new in the field — even if New Directions for Women has understood its importance for longer than most recovery facilities.
Nevertheless, new studies and the increasing popularity of trauma-informed approaches for both womens’ and men’s’ recovery are consistently showing the mix of trauma and addiction therapy provides wide-ranging benefits.
What’s so unique about a trauma-informed approach to recovery? How does a trauma-informed approach make New Directions for Women a more effective womens recovery center? Broadly, the benefits can be broken down into three different categories.
A Clinically Proven Foundation
The New Directions for Women approach to trauma-informed recovery draws on years of clinical practice, rigorous research, and theory.
Our therapists have a thorough and clear understanding of the many different ways in which trauma can affect people over the course of their lifetime — on the psychological level, on the biological level, and even on the neurological one.
Our approach to recovery takes this understanding into account, acknowledging that chemical dependency does not happen in a vacuum, but is instead usually accompanied by a web of cultural, familial and relational factors.
Understanding How Trauma Changes People
Research has shown repeatedly that traumatic experiences alter the brain’s chemistry, profoundly shaping the way victims interact with and experience their world.
Trauma-informed care means acknowledging certain kinds of actions, interventions, and language risk re-traumatizing the patient — and means that staffers and facilitators are trained to avoid these things. This is one reason New Directions for Women are a womens-only treatment facility: without men present, the risk of re-traumatization is much lower.
Having a curriculum which understands the psychological import of trauma means engaging our women in a manner that creates a supportive and safe environment, minimizing the chances of re-traumatization while allowing them to explore their past and begin to come to terms with what happened. Rather than focusing on the question “what’s wrong with you?” it means asking “what’s happened to you?”
Addressing the Full Human Experience
Finally, at New Directions for Women we take a holistic approach that addresses the entire human experience, from the emotional to the physical to the spiritual, cultural, and relational. We do not have a single one-size-fits-all program.
Instead, we base each person’s treatment program on the unique challenges of their personal history. Combined with our holistic approach, our women have a chance at deeper self-awareness and the opportunity to experience true healing and move towards a sense of genuine wholeness.