The Importance of Feeling Safe During Treatment
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Going to treatment for addiction can be unnerving for some people, especially not knowing what to expect. When you enroll in a residential program, you are putting your trust in the people and the program to help you stop using substances and help you feel safe. For women who have experienced trauma, feeling safe can be especially difficult but is still an important feeling that is needed to achieve.

The Drawbacks of Traditional Treatment Methods

Traditional addiction treatment methods are tried and true and work for many people. However, they were developed by and for men, and many of them are considered to be somewhat harsh or outdated. Some of the methods used can actually make those who have experienced feel unsafe or even trigger them because of past abuse or harm, which can lead to increased self-esteem issues, relapse, and other negative consequences.

Some of the traditional methods that can make women with traumatic backgrounds feel unsafe include:

  • Confrontation or name-calling
  • Exercising “tough love.”
  • Forced sharing
  • Using certain types of slogans or jargon 

Why Women Who Have Experienced Trauma May Feel Unsafe

Some of these methods can cause women to have flashbacks from prior traumatic experiences or even re-traumatize them. For example, a woman who was physically or emotionally abused likely would not respond well to confrontation or name-calling, as it would recall her abusive experiences and may cause a setback in recovery. Or she might feel like she was being abused all over again, even if the methods were well-intentioned.

When a woman has experienced trauma or has Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), having flashbacks to her trauma creates a physical response in her brain and body that makes it seem like she is in danger at that moment, even if she is not. The “fight-or-flight” response is triggered, and she may shut down or respond as if she is in danger again. This is the opposite effect desired in treatment, which is to help and heal, and can further damage her self-esteem, cause her to relapse, or have other negative mental health consequences.

How to Help Women Feel Safe During Treatment

Women who have traumatic backgrounds can feel safe during treatment for addiction; they simply need different approaches. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, their needs should be addressed when developing methods for treatment. Acknowledging their trauma is first and foremost, as healing from trauma is often at the core of healing from addiction.

Using compassionate, trauma-informed care will help address the responses that arise during treatment in a way that allows each individual to heal and grow on their own timetable and in ways that are safe and comfortable to them mentally, physically, and emotionally. Trauma often creates even more disconnect between the mind and body, so treatment should also address this issue with more breathing, grounding, and sensory experiences to supplement the therapeutic treatments. This will help create a greater sense of safety.

The Basics of Trauma-Informed Care

Women respond well to trauma-informed care because it addresses the areas where they need to feel safe and in control of their healing process. These five areas are:

  • Empowerment – women coming from trauma often feel powerless and need the opportunity to grow, share, and lead as they are ready.
  • Choice – giving women a choice helps them to feel like they have control over their lives and their environment.
  • Collaboration – trauma can cause women to feel weak and vulnerable, so giving women a chance to collaborate and be a part of their treatment process helps them to feel strong and capable.
  • Safety – trauma causes many women to live in constant fear, and creating a safe space for healing is critical.
  • Trustworthiness – women who have experienced trauma often need to learn to trust again, so creating trustworthy relationships is necessary to feel safe.

When both the program and the providers are able to provide true trauma-informed care, women can feel safe and empowered during their treatment process and will be able to heal more successfully.

Prioritizing People’s Safety Ahead of Programs

Too many programs for too long have done things a certain way out of habit or oversight. The more we learn about women and trauma, the more it becomes clear that their needs are more important than adhering to a strict program. Putting their safety and their concerns at the forefront of their treatment is the best way to find success because you are putting the person first. In order for her healing to be facilitated, a woman needs to feel safe first and foremost.

Traditional treatment methods can make women who have experienced trauma feel unsafe. Using trauma-informed care is essential in helping women feel safe and empowered in their healing process. Putting the person before the program helps facilitate healing and growth. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women is a detox and residential treatment program in Costa Mesa, California. We use trauma-informed care to help women feel safe during addiction and co-occurring disorders treatment. Our staff offers safe, non-judgmental, compassionate healing in a facility that is a quiet refuge from the outside world. We offer clinical and holistic modalities such as EMDR, yoga, essential oils, mindfulness, and meditation to help women who have experienced trauma heal. Our goal is to provide a safe place for you to find your way again. Contact us at The Ho Tai Way at (714) 581-3974 to learn more.