There are as many reasons why people develop problems with drugs or alcohol as there are people. Nobody sets out to become addicted to these substances, and those who abuse them almost always have underlying factors that drive them to substance abuse. Of these factors, having experienced traumatic events is one of the most frequent.
“Trauma” is used to describe an experience that results in a person developing emotional or mental difficulties as a result. Trauma could be the result of being attacked or assaulted, of suffering long-term cruelty, bereavement or of witnessing something dreadful.
Symptoms of Trauma
The symptoms of trauma are varied. The most common symptoms include flashbacks, anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, insomnia, depression and substance abuse.1 In many cases, the person has no idea that they are suffering from a traumatic episode and do not associate the symptoms with any definable event in their past. It is usually only when a person seeks medical or psychological help that the underlying condition is diagnosed.2
Even when it becomes apparent that a person is suffering from trauma, it can be very difficult to help that person overcome the problem. In the past, when even most people in the medical profession were ignorant of trauma, people who reported depression, insomnia, panic attacks or other similar symptoms were prescribed tranquillizers, sleeping aids or anti-depressants. These may have provided temporary relief, but they did nothing to address the core problem.
Treatment for Trauma
Today, it is understood that people with trauma need help that goes behind prescribing medication. Trauma intensive outpatient programming is specially devised therapy to help people with trauma. The “intensive” part of the therapy refers to the frequency of counseling sessions, rather than the type of treatment. For example, standard outpatient therapy sessions for substance abuse treatment might take place for two hours twice a week, whereas intensive outpatient treatment may consist of three-hour sessions five days per week.
Trauma intensive outpatient programming is often used to complement other types of outpatient therapy. For example, people who have developed problems with drugs or alcohol may attend therapy sessions in a rehab treatment facility to deal with that issue. Where there is an issue with trauma, the same people can attend additional therapeutic sessions to deal with underlying mental or emotional problems.
Intensive outpatient therapy programs have to be highly customized for each individual. Different rehab facilities will take different approaches, but helping people discover what events in the past are likely to be the root of the current problems is a crucial component. Once the root cause has been identified, people can be taught how to cope with the problem in a more positive way.
Trauma intensive outpatient programming can be the all-important component of therapy that eventually leads people with addiction problems to a full recovery. Many people talk about the relief they feel when there is a rational explanation for their symptoms, and that gives them the motivation to get the rest of their lives back under control.