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Why Trauma-Informed Care Is Necessary in Today’s Healthcare System

The Importance of Security in Seeking Treatment

Are there different ways to approach therapeutic care? Is there one approach that is more likely to resonate with certain types of patients over others? Some patients are unable to connect with their healthcare provider, resulting in being unable to experience any progress in their healing, as they may not feel safe or supported in a way that they need to recover. This is particularly common for those who have experienced some form of trauma in their life and are unable to trust others in the same way a typical patient would. Trust is fundamental to an effective recovery; you need to be vulnerable in order to let someone help you.

Safety, support, and security are of the utmost importance to our care at Boardwalk Recovery Center. We are aware that many of our clients have experienced trauma due to their substance use disorder (SUD) and need to heal from that as well. This is why our facility incorporates trauma-informed care into our treatment for SUDs.

What is Trauma-Informed Care?

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the important principles of trauma-informed care include asking permission, offering control, and ensuring safety. This form of care has become even more necessary over the years, as the prevalence of trauma continues to rise. Statistics released from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that one in four children experienced some form of traumatic abuse in their childhood, ranging from physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.1

Addressing the Root of the Problem

While childhood may seem distant at an age when you begin experimenting and discovering your own ways of coping (either positive or negative), the impact of that event does hold weight and will influence the life of the individual – unless it is properly addressed and processed. For instance, at the age you begin using or abusing substances to socialize or numb personal stressors, the traumatic event that occured when you were five seems irrelevant to the issues of today. People tend to block the traumatic event away, so bringing up any memories or emotions from the trauma could be difficult and lead to further frustration. This is why trauma-informed care is necessary, as bringing up buried wounds from the past can be sensitive territory. Having a professional slowly peel away the armor of the avoidance in a thoughtful and trauma-informed approach, a patient will feel safe and supported while they begin to process their pain.

The Link Between Sexual Trauma and Harmful Drug Use

Unfortunately, statistics over the years have shown a large connection between those with a substance use disorder and those who have experienced sexual trauma – such as rape. This could be due to the dangerous lifestyle associated with drug use or the inhibited behavior from intoxication that leads to risky behaviors. While we are an all men’s facility at Boardwalk Recovery Center, and the statistics for rape are larger for women (one in five women have experienced rape at some point in their lives), rape does happen to men, too. It has been reported that one in 71 men have experienced rape at some point in their lives, and of these men and women reported, “12% of these women and 30% of these men were younger than 10 years old when they were raped.”1 This is an alarming statistic that challenges us to deliver change.

Erasing Stigma and Embracing Help

These devastating statistics do not even touch on the victims who did not report their traumatic experiences. When it comes to men being sexually abused, it is difficult to know how common it is, as many men feel too ashamed to speak out against their abuse. Not to mention, of the men who both do and do not speak up, they will likely experience difficulty discussing their feelings, not only due to the intense range of emotions, but because of the stigma surrounding men and vulnerability. At Boardwalk Recovery Center, we pride ourselves in being a space where men feel empowered to speak their truth and share their authentic experience freely. In turn, our clients can heal from the inside out, tackling their trauma and substance use disorder in one intentional recovery.

With statistics revealing the unfortunate prevalence of experiencing trauma, it is vital that health care professionals always consider trauma-informed care in their healthcare delivery. Across the wide variety of medical examinations there is the chance, no matter what the appointment entails, that it will feel invasive for the patient. Even for someone who has not experienced trauma, medical appointments or therapy sessions involve someone not that close to you “asking sensitive questions, examining intimate body parts, and sometimes delivering uncomfortable – even painful – treatment” or information. Accounting for this experience in a medical exam and the fact that a large population of people have experienced trauma, it is evident that trauma-informed care is vital for the future of well received healthcare.

Help From Boardwalk Recovery

Fortunately, the importance of trauma-informed care has come to the forefront of research and medical training. The implementation of this care and consistently across a facility is crucial to truly progressing healthcare and reaching empathetic and efficient care delivery. Mass General Hospital’s reputable primary care physician, Dr. Lesiley Lincoln, trains her mentees and medical students with the trauma-informed care model and ingrains in her students the importance of approaching patient care with an understanding of trauma.2

Dr. Lincoln informed and defined trauma-informed care as the following: “Practices that promote a culture of safety, empowerment, and healing. A medical office or hospital can be a terrifying experience for someone who has experienced trauma, particularly for childhood sexual abuse survivors. The perceived power differential, being asked to remove clothing, and having invasive testing can remind someone of prior episodes of abuse. This can lead to anxiety about medical visits, flashbacks during the visit, or avoidance of medical care.”2 This expansive understanding of trauma and the power it has over day to day experiences, like Dr.’s appointments, allows us to better serve our patients and ensure everyone has the opportunity to heal, no matter their background and previous experiences. At Boardwalk Recovery, we know trauma-informed care is necessary in today’s healthcare system, and especially critical in successful substance use disorder and addiction recoveries.

Resources

  1. Monique Tello, MD. “Trauma-Informed Care: What It Is, and Why It’s Important.” Harvard Health, 16 Oct. 2018, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/trauma-informed-care-what-it-is-and-why-its-important-2018101613562.
  2. Rittenberg, Eve, et al. “Trauma-Informed Care – Reflections of a Primary Care Doctor in the Week of the Kavanaugh Hearing: Nejm.” New England Journal of Medicine, 29 Nov. 2018, https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMp1813497?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dwww.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
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