Recovery is possible. We are open 24/7. 866-797-7962

Medically Reviewed

4 Ways an Addiction Treatment Center Can Help You Deal With Trauma

- 5 sections

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

When you struggle with addiction, you are exposed to a lifestyle of stress, danger, and traumatic experiences. While simply engaging in the lifestyle of addiction can expose you to trauma, it is extremely common for individuals suffering from substance abuse to experience trauma before they pick up their first drink or drug. Often, childhood trauma is the root cause of substance use disorder.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, “In surveys of adolescents receiving treatment for substance abuse, more than 70% of patients had a history of trauma exposure.”[1] Additionally, up to 59% of young people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develop substance use disorders.

Whether you experienced trauma in your childhood or as an adult, it can affect the way you think, feel, and behave. People with underlying trauma who seek addiction treatment require comprehensive, trauma-informed care to fully recover.

Dual diagnosis addiction treatment centers offer a variety of therapeutic services that can help you recover from the trauma you’ve experienced in your past. Here are four ways a drug rehab program can help you deal with trauma.

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most commonly used therapies for people with a history of trauma. This therapeutic method focuses on your relationship with your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Trauma can affect how you think, feel, and behave concerning yourself and the world around you, but CBT can help you think about things and interact with the world in a more positive way.[2]

CBT is helpful in treating trauma because it teaches you how to replace negative patterns of thought with positive ones and provides you with the tools you need to process your trauma healthily.

Other benefits of CBT for trauma recovery include:

  • Developing healthy coping skills
  • Learning how to identify and change negative patterns of thought
  • Reducing the symptoms of PTSD
  • Teaching you how to stay in the present instead of focusing on the past
  • Learning how to gain control over your own thoughts
  • Increasing your self-esteem
  • Learning how to manage triggers and regulate your emotions

2. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of therapy that was created to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR focuses on the belief that the symptoms of trauma cause distress because the memory was never processed effectively. In other words, unprocessed traumatic memories cause symptoms of PTSD and problems with your emotions, behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs.[3]

During EMDR therapy, you will focus on the trauma memory while receiving bilateral stimulation (usually eye movements) which can reduce the vividness of the memory and lessen the emotions associated with your trauma.

EMDR provides the following benefits for trauma recovery:

  • Lessening of PTSD symptoms
  • Loss of PTSD diagnosis
  • Reduced self-harming behaviors
  • Lessened feelings of anxiety and stress
  • Decreased depression
  • Reduced symptoms of addiction
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Lessened outbursts of anger

3. Trauma-Focused Group Counseling

Many addiction treatment centers offer trauma-focused counseling groups that can help you feel heard, understood, and less alone.

Counseling groups are composed of 5-15 patients and a licensed psychologist or therapist who facilitates the discussion. In a trauma-focused counseling group, the discussion may be focused on a specific type of trauma. For example, one group may be focused on domestic violence while another may be on childhood trauma and addiction.

The benefits of trauma-focused group therapy include:

  • Reduction in PTSD symptoms
  • Learning how to manage long-term symptoms
  • Gaining a safe-space
  • Access to a community that provides you with a sense of belonging
  • Lessened feelings of shame or stigma surrounding your trauma
  • Allowing you to restore trust in others
  • Helping you overcome social anxiety or fear
  • Providing you with validation
  • Learning new coping mechanisms that work for others
  • Boosting your self-esteem

Group counseling is a powerful part of addiction and trauma recovery because it shows you that you are not alone in your struggles, and that recovery is possible.

4. Diagnosis and Medication for PTSD Symptoms

If you have experienced trauma in your past and deal with symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, or mood swings, you could be suffering from PTSD.

According to the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Alliance, “An estimated 70 percent of adults in the United States have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lives and up to 20 percent of these people go on to develop posttraumatic stress disorder.”[4]

PTSD can be extremely difficult to cope with and if it’s left untreated, it can lead to the development of a substance use disorder. If you are entering addiction treatment and suffer from the symptoms of PTSD, your drug rehab program can assess your symptoms and decide if you fit the diagnostic criteria for the condition.

Once you are diagnosed, you will attend individual therapy and group counseling to teach you how to manage your symptoms. If some of your symptoms are significantly impacting your ability to function, medication may be recommended. Most commonly, SSRIs or SNRIs will be prescribed to help raise the levels of serotonin in your brain, regulating mood, appetite, and sleep.

Find Help for Trauma and Addiction Today

Dealing with unresolved trauma can make it difficult for you to cope with everyday life. Over time, you may begin seeking out ways to self-medicate your emotions, leading to the development of a substance use disorder. If you or a loved one suffer from both trauma and addiction, it’s time to seek help.

Dual diagnosis addiction treatment centers like Carolina Recovery Center can help you overcome the symptoms of trauma and teach you how to cope without feeling the need to drink or use drugs. Contact us today to start your recovery.