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How Addiction Treatment Helps You Deal With Childhood Trauma

childhood trauma and addictionTrauma comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be any event, big or small, that threatens your emotional, physical, or intimate security. Childhood trauma, specifically, can have lasting effects on your mental, emotional, and behavioral health. Research has confirmed that exposure to traumatic experiences, particularly those that happen during childhood and transformative years, is closely linked to the development of substance use disorder (SUD).[1]

Experiencing one or more traumatic events during childhood not only increases the risk of addiction, but also mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. The trauma you experience in childhood can follow you for the rest of your life, affecting your thought processes, behaviors, and emotional responses. If you’ve found yourself struggling with childhood trauma and addiction, it’s important that you seek help from a trauma-focused addiction treatment program to help you recover.

The Importance of Addressing Childhood Trauma During Addiction Treatment

Childhood trauma affects every aspect of your life. Even if you get sober, leaving your trauma untreated can make you susceptible to trauma-related triggers that make you want to use drugs or alcohol again. Further, many people use substances to cope with symptoms of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When you stop using substances to cope, you’ll have to face all of the emotions surrounding your trauma head-on. This can be very difficult and painful to do. Additionally, research has found that people with PTSD or trauma have a more challenging time getting sober and staying sober.[2]

You shouldn’t have to deal with childhood trauma on your own. A trauma-informed substance abuse treatment program can help you cope with your trauma and stay away from drugs and alcohol.

Identifying trauma-related triggers is an important part of treatment and recovery. When you can identify the things that trigger you and are able to move past them, you build resilience against the next drink or drug. Learning how to overcome your trauma and love yourself is also important for your mental health. When you are caring for your mental health, you’re less likely to relapse and more likely to embrace your sober lifestyle.

How To Deal With Childhood Trauma During Addiction Treatment

If you are someone who has experienced childhood trauma and you are now suffering from addiction, you are not alone. More than 59% of young people who are trauma survivors go on to develop substance use problems.[2] Seeking a trauma-focused addiction treatment program will allow you to address your trauma, begin healing from it, and start living a sober lifestyle.

Various ways an addiction treatment center can help you overcome childhood trauma include:

Trauma-Informed Care

Trauma-informed care is an approach that focuses on the experiences of individuals rather than their shortcomings. Instead of pointing out things you do wrong, a trauma-informed approach will consider the fact that your past experiences influence who you are and how you act.

Trauma-informed care is not a type of therapy. It is an approach that is used throughout all clinical and organizational levels of a treatment program. This approach seeks to integrate knowledge and understanding of trauma’s widespread effects into all therapies offered during treatment. It also aims to avoid re-traumatization by considering your individual needs, beliefs, and experiences.[3]

Inner Child Work and Mindfulness

Your “inner child” refers to your personal representation and understanding of your younger self. Many people who experience childhood trauma were alone in their trauma and did not have an adult to console them appropriately. This lack of affection can make some people angry, unloving, or resentful towards their younger self or their “inner child.”

Inner child work helps bring awareness to the needs of yourself as a child. The idea is to let your inner child express their pain as you nurture that pain. If you needed compassion and consolation as a child, you will spend time consoling your inner child and being compassionate towards him/her. You will learn to love your inner child while also becoming aware of how your inner child affects your day-to-day life.

By nurturing your inner child, you become more mindful. And, when you are mindful about your inner child, you can lessen the power your trauma has over you by continuing to extend compassion and support to your younger self. You may also learn how to use mindfulness techniques to heal your inner child, reduce stress and anxiety, and avoid panic attacks.


Psychotherapies like trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) help patients identify and adjust destructive emotional, behavioral, and thought patterns into healthy solutions. TF-CBT uses cognitive responses and self-awareness to help you heal from childhood trauma and addiction.

Another type of psychotherapy that may be used during treatment is prolonged exposure therapy (PET). Exposure therapy asks patients to re-examine traumatic memories to gain a better understanding of those events. Although exposure therapy can be painful in the moment, it can help reduce depression, panic attacks, and anxiety in people who struggle with PTSD.[4]

Lastly, narrative exposure therapy (NET) is a short-term treatment that has aspects that are similar to PET and TF-CBT. This technique will ask you to outline your trauma exposure in an autobiographical context or “timeline.” NET aims to help you understand your trauma, gain compassion for yourself, and begin healing.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is an increasingly popular therapy used during addiction treatment to address childhood trauma and addiction. EMDR is done in 6-12 sessions during which you are asked to recall traumatic memories while moving your eyes in a rhythmic pattern under the instruction of an EMDR therapist. This approach is thought to break the emotional connection to traumatic events and reduce symptoms of distress that occur with PTSD.[5]

Trauma-Informed Care With Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment

Here at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, we offer a person-centered program that fully recognizes and adheres to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s (SAMHSA) newly established definition that recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. We believe that addressing the underlying causes of your addiction is a vital component of your full recovery.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, contact us today to see if our programs are right for you.



Ready to Make a Change?

We know that overcoming addiction is not easy and requires courage to ask for help. At Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, our team of professionals has decades of combined experience in helping men, women, and families overcome substance abuse.

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