Trauma & Addictions Program
At the Sister Margaret Smith Centre the full continuum of addiction services are trauma informed. In practical measure this means that there is a common understanding that many of our clients have experienced traumatic life events. For many individuals struggling with substance abuse and/or gambling, there is often found to be a history of trauma which can include child physical, sexual, psychological and emotional abuse, as well as, adult single event traumas i.e., motor vehicle accidents, traumatic death/bereavement, assaults and other events. It is now generally accepted that the links between trauma and addiction are strong. Many clients are clearly able to tie their onset of substance use/gambling to attempts to cope. Many have also experienced traumatic events in their adult years connected to their substance abuse/gambling and the high risk situations addiction is often associated with. Within a trauma informed context, clients are provided education regarding the impact of trauma and are taught grounding and containment measures with which to manage trauma symptoms. Psycho-education and symptom management techniques consist of interventions typically offered in the first stage of trauma recovery- the safety stage.
The services of the Trauma specialist can be accessed while clients are participating in one of the residential treatment programs. Additional support may be provided to clients engaged in the substance use/gambling residential program who are finding it a struggle to remain engaged in treatment given intrusive trauma symptoms, i.e, flashbacks, nightmares, dissociation. Individual meetings with a trauma therapist can be helpful to assist the client in managing most effectively while continuing to seek treatment for their addiction.
Trauma specific services are also available to clients upon completion of the residential program and/or to individuals referred for community-based treatment. These services consist of an individualized trauma assessment with the development and subsequent implementation of a treatment plan. The task is two-fold, to treat both the addiction as well as the underlying trauma. Trauma treatment techniques include the use of a coping skills format with measured exposure as memories are processed. Exposure techniques utilized include: CBT, CBT with modified prolonged exposure, as well as, EMDR.
Given the complex nature of working with addictions and trauma concurrently, a strong collaborative approach with each client is utilized in order to maintain treatment within safe parameters.