Psychological trauma is a spectrum of damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of traumatic events. When the trauma is severe or repeated, the resulting damage can lead to serious long-term negative consequences that are often overlooked – even by mental health professionals.Severe trauma leads to (in individuals predisposed) post traumatic stress disorder. If the traumatic event is less severe or involves a single experience, the result may be an anxiety disorder. In either case, trauma affects the individual’s ability to cope with or integrate the ideas and emotions involved with the experience. The sense of being overwhelmed can be delayed by weeks, years or even decades, as the person struggles to cope with the immediate circumstances, which is especially true when a loved one dies.
Trauma can be caused by a wide variety of events, but there are a few common aspects. There is frequently a violation of the person’s familiar ideas about the world, putting the person in a state of extreme anxiety and insecurity. This is also seen when people or institutions, depended upon for survival, violate or betrayor disillusion the person in some unforeseen way. An example is a woman who saw a police officer viciously beating a homeless man with a flashlight. Although she was only a witness, the fact that her view of law enforcement was forever altered was traumatizing.
We know it is vital to recognize the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledge the role that trauma has played in clients’ lives.Trauma impacts one’s spirituality and relationships with self, others, communities and environment, often resulting in recurring feelings of shame, guilt, rage, isolation, and disconnection. Thus, healing must be truly holistic, encompassing not only the mind, body and spirit, but the family as well. Furthermore,there is a scientific consensus that individuals who have suffered psychological trauma and who are chemically dependent require an integrated treatment approach. The approach should treat both the dependency and the trauma simultaneously. Northbound does exactly this when treating clients who have suffered psychological trauma. We address the clinical needs of individuals who have histories of substance abuse and concurrently address the trauma.
Medication for Trauma?
Treatment for psychological trauma at Northbound usually involves psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. Relaxation therapy is also helpful to reduce and cope with residual anxiety. Historically a variety of medications have been applied to the disorders that arise from trauma, including mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, and anti-psychotics – but Northbound works with psychiatrists to assure that medication is utilized sparingly and after careful consideration that medication is vitally necessary.
Traumatized people are more guarded and less willing to take risks. Their sense of control, their ability to adapt and their ability to make meaning out of the world are all impacted. When a new, threatening situation arises, a traumatized person disconnects and retreats. This can also be true during treatment when the event is being examined. The reconnection necessary for recovery — reconnection with self, family, others and community – is extremely difficult for traumatized clients. Thus, recovery focuses on restoring connection in all areas where connection has been disrupted.
Too often the symptoms and defense mechanisms of trauma are mistaken for stubbornness or denial. The traumatized client has a strong need/desire to control their treatment. The clinical team at Northbound is well-aware of this difficulty in treating clients who are suffering from the dual-diagnosis of trauma and chemical dependency.
Reactions to traumatic events are always highly individualistic. Thus, treatment should also be unique, as it is at Northbound Treatment Services. We specialize in tailoring the treatment to the individual. We build treatment up around the client to suit their needs, and by doing so we challenge to client to do the hard work to get well.