DDN May 2022 May 2022 - Page 12

TRAUMA

GET ENGAGED

Genuinely trauma-informed services are vital to service user engagement , say Fleur Gill , Jenny Scott , Charlotte Dack and Lee Collingham

Most people experiencing addiction have had traumatic experiences in their lives . Trauma can cause a range of effects by disrupting a person ’ s sense of self , the way in which they navigate the world and the way they function . They may experience depression and anxiety and struggle to manage their emotions , build healthy relationships or trust others . People who experience trauma are at risk of developing serious mental health conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder . Using drugs and alcohol can help to numb the difficult and overwhelming symptoms related to trauma , but over time this puts these individuals at risk of addiction . Some describe substance use as a means of self-medication .

High quality drug and alcohol treatment can improve and save
lives . Such treatment needs to be flexible , depending on the individual ’ s needs – service users should be treated with respect , listened to , receive timely mental health support , have a say in their treatment and feel safe and secure with staff from their treatment provider . This is particularly relevant for those who have had traumatic experiences , as addiction treatment may be daunting and difficult , with the potential to be retraumatising . Services should ensure risks of traumatisation are minimised – the UK clinical guidelines for drug and alcohol treatment ( the ‘ orange book ’) advocates an approach that aims to achieve this , referred to as trauma-informed care .
Trauma-informed care is not necessarily about treating the trauma or being aware of what has happened . Instead , it ’ s about adopting methods and principles that acknowledge and account for the fact someone may have had traumatic experience ( s ).
This is done by understanding the effects of trauma and the impacts it may have on people . For example , trauma could cause people to become defensive and aggressive , or they may disengage and withdraw , or have difficulties trusting the intentions of professionals .
The key principles of traumainformed care therefore are to reduce re-traumatisation and improve treatment experience and engagement . These principles aim to create trustworthiness , safety , empowerment , choice and collaboration .
A masters project undertaken by Fleur Gill and supported by Lee Collingham , Charlotte Dack and Jenny Scott at the University of Bath interviewed 15 people with experience of using drug and alcohol treatment services . Twelve men and three women took part – the youngest was 30 and the oldest 68 with an average age of 46 . Their experience of treatment services ranged from five to 30
Trauma-informed care is not necessarily about treating the trauma or being aware of what has happened . Instead , it ’ s about adopting methods and principles that acknowledge and account for the fact someone may have had traumatic experience ( s ).
12 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • MAY 2022
WWW . DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS . COM