Why are Mental Health Clinicians Focusing on Trauma-informed Care?

“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams, healing can begin.”

Danielle Bernock

What is trauma-informed care (TIC)?

In recent years ‘trauma’ has become somewhat of a buzzword; social media platforms have been inundated with content (where the term is frequently misused) and there has been an upsurge of heated debates across legacy media on the subject. Dr Gabor Maté, Dr Bessell van der Kolk, Dr Deepak Chopra and Cathy Caruth have been catapulted into the mainstream discussion on mental health, with the likes of Alice Miller’s works being revisited by many in recovery. The word ‘trauma’ has been woven into corporate HR policies and procedures and integrated into staff training and wellbeing workshops/courses. The average person with zero medical training or experience working on the frontline in health and social care may have a better understanding of the term trauma than they might have done say, ten years ago. So, what exactly is trauma? SAMHSA defines trauma as: “Trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”

Perhaps the peak of the collective discussions on the subject occurred at the time of the publication of Prince Harry’s memoir last year, when such an extremely high-profile individual chose to share his most sensitive and complex traumatic memories in the public glare. Most excellent mental health clinicians have a deep understanding of trauma, and some have integrated trauma-informed care (TIC) into their services. According to the Buffalo Centre for Social Research: “Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) is an approach in the human service field that assumes that an individual is more likely than not to have a history of trauma. Trauma-Informed Care recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role trauma may play in an individual’s life, including service staff.”

Similarly, ScienceDirect published a paper by Carlone C. Piotrowski, Adverse Childhood Experiences, which states: “Trauma-informed care (TIC) has come to represent a major paradigm shift in the conceptualization, delivery, and evaluation of individual, team, and systems-level services and care. It can be found across a wide variety of settings, including healthcare, justice systems, mental health, child welfare, crisis and homeless shelters, education, and many others. Rooted in an upsurge in our understanding of the nature of trauma, as well as a growing awareness of the pervasiveness of adverse childhood experiences, a trauma-informed approach is becoming increasingly important in any interaction with those who have undergone traumatic experiences, particularly children.”

Let’s look at the guiding principles in a trauma-informed care (TIC) framework:

  • Safety
  • Trustworthiness and transparency
  • Peer support
  • Collaboration and Mutuality
  • Empowerment voice and choice
  • Cultural, historical, and gender issues

Many mental health clinicians expect past trauma to be a primary factor in a patient’s reasons for seeking treatment (whether they are aware of this or not). Many individuals seeking treatment for addiction report experiencing trauma in childhood and adolescence: from being raised in an extremely volatile environment, or being sexually and/or physically assaulted to bereavement or unexpected loss. Such realisations often come to light once an individual has undergone a medically supervised detox and embarked on some initial therapy.

What impact is the buzzword having in society?

Some mental health clinicians are sceptical or even dismissive of trauma-informed care and worry about the word “trauma” being overused or misused. They point to influencers, and many on social networks mistakenly using the word trauma to describe feelings of invalidation, rejection, “heartbreak “and so on (trauma talk). The concern is that by labelling one’s upsetting or emotionally painful experiences as trauma, it minimises and devalues the experiences of those suffering with genuine trauma or PTSD/complex PTSD. Some individuals without any medical/mental health training are using their online platforms to describe individuals as being “traumatised”, which is deeply unhelpful even when this is meant as a gesture of empathy/compassion. The problem with trauma as a buzzword in the collective consciousness, (particularly on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok) is that after a while, it can create a sense of apathy. Furthermore, it can cause resentment among those who aren’t traumatised (nor claim to be) but are dealing with their own significant life challenges. This can have an adverse effect on those who need genuine treatment and may result in such individuals being reluctant to seek help, for fear of their experience not being validated (something which many sufferers of trauma have often had to contend with all their lives). Suffice to say, it’s difficult to surmise at this point whether the commercialisation of trauma has done more harm than good.

At Addcounsel, we recognise that although misunderstanding and misinformation regarding trauma and complex trauma is widespread, this should not deter mental health clinicians from viewing trauma as a legitimate mental health condition or from adopting trauma-informed care as a sound framework for treatment. We’ve seen firsthand how far-reaching the effects of untreated trauma are on individuals who have succumbed to addiction later in life. Trauma in the truest sense can decimate the quality of a sufferer’s life and their close relationships, thereby greatly impacting others. Marriages, parental and family obligations are frequently compromised or neglected because of untreated trauma.

How does untreated trauma impact one’s life?

At Addcounsel, we have repeatedly witnessed the major impact of untreated trauma on our patients. Immediate reactions to trauma can result inthe following:

  • Dissociation
  • Confusion
  • Numbness
  • Exhaustion
  • Ambivalence
  • Sadness
  • Continuous distress
  • Flashbacks and recollections of the event/incident
  • Triggers
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Depression
  • Nightmares
  • Irritability and persistent restlessness
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Rage and mood swings
  • A paralysing fear of the incident reoccurring

Many ultra-high-net-worth individuals resort to self-medicating by using strong pain killers, alcohol, illegal mind- and mood-altering substances, or develop behavioural addictions such as compulsive gambling. A traumatised individual might not be aware that they need professional help while they continue to self-medicate to numb their distress. They therefore experiment using a cocktail of substances or processes to ‘get by’ which can lead to an addiction. Many will isolate themselves, withdrawing from family, friends, and business associates, thereby exacerbating the problem.

An ultra-wealthy traumatised individual may have the resources and staff to keep their portfolios, office, and asset protection/tax planning ticking along, but this can create an illusion that “all is well”, masking both untreated trauma and addiction/addictive behaviours. Addcounsel’s mental health clinicians have treated individuals whose denial about being traumatised delayed them from seeking treatment sooner.  This is why it’s so important for there to be a much clearer and well-informed understanding of trauma so that those who need it know when the time has come to reach out and get the appropriate help.

Many ultra-wealthy adults who experience complex trauma in childhood will suffer in silence for years, adopting survival techniques many of which are highly detrimental as discussed above, until they finally receive the excellent care and treatment they so badly need. Childhood trauma often has adverse effects on the body and the brain’s ability to regulate mood. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network states: “Complexly traumatized youth frequently suffer from body dysregulation, meaning they over-respond or under-respond to sensory stimuli. For example, they may be hypersensitive to sounds, smells, touch, or light, or they may suffer from anesthesia and analgesia, in which they are unaware of pain, touch, or internal physical sensations. As a result, they may injure themselves without feeling pain, suffer from physical problems without being aware of them, or the converse – they may complain of chronic pain in various body areas for which no physical cause can be found.”

In so far as the impact of trauma on emotional regulation is concerned, National Library of Medicine (USA) states: “Some trauma survivors have difficulty regulating emotions such as anger, anxiety, sadness, and shame—this is more so when the trauma occurred at a young age (van der Kolk, Roth, Pelcovitz, & Mandel, 1993). In individuals who are older and functioning well prior to the trauma, such emotional dysregulation is usually short lived and represents an immediate reaction to the trauma, rather than an ongoing pattern. Self-medication—namely, substance abuse—is one of the methods that traumatized people use in an attempt to regain emotional control, although ultimately it causes even further emotional dysregulation (e.g., substance-induced changes in affect during and after use).”

Addcounsel’s approach to treatment for trauma

Untreated trauma can have a severe impact on an individual’s physical, emotional, and mental health at the time of the event(s) or experience(s) and more commonly, later in life. It can be due to one or several factors, such as abuse (physical or sexual), neglect, accidents, chronic illness, or witnessing violence/abuse. The effects of childhood trauma can persist into adulthood, impacting relationships, work life, and overall well-being. However, with the proper treatment for childhood trauma, recovery is possible.

Addcounsel’s approach to trauma treatment is completely individualised to your needs. You don’t have to go through this alone. Our seasoned experts have developed a “whole person” approach to the treatment of childhood trauma. We have many different approaches in our treatment plans. What works for one person may not work for another.

Our dedicated team will help and guide you through the entire process from start to finish, in the comfort and anonymity of our luxury, private addiction treatment accommodation in Mayfair, Chelsea, Knightsbridge or Notting Hill, London.

Contact us today to start your recovery journey.


We are here to help

Related articles from Addcounsel

Contact Us Today

Whether you’re worried about yourself or a loved one, our team would like to answer any questions you may have about treatment. Call our care team today to find out more about our treatment modalities and have all your questions answered