When it comes to substance abuse treatment, the biggest elephant in the room is trauma. Consider how many participants in substance abuse group therapies have trauma-related disorders.

Treatments often involve group therapy sessions because it provides individuals support and allows them to connect to individuals in similar situations, among other reasons.

This article will tackle the importance of addressing trauma during substance abuse treatment, the role of group therapy in the journey to recovery, what group therapy activities to expect, and how a trauma-informed approach works.

group therapy activities for substance abuse

Source: Oregon Trail Recovery

Defining Trauma

According to behavioral health professionals, trauma refers to an individual’s emotional reaction to an event or circumstance that causes emotional or physical harm.

Different kinds of trauma can increase an individual’s vulnerability to substance abuse. These traumas may include:

  • Childhood abuse – It includes sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. 
  • Sexual assault – Survivors of sexual assault may suffer from intense feelings of fear, shame, guilt, and PTSD-like symptoms. 
  • Military-related trauma – Exposure to violence, combat, or similar war-related experiences increases veterans’ risk of substance abuse problems. 
  • Injuries or accidents – Car accidents or any injury-causing accidents can leave a person with physical and emotional trauma, causing them to turn to substances to cope. 
  • Complex trauma – It includes repeated abuse, domestic abuse, or ongoing conflict that cause ongoing emotional pain, fear, and stress. 
  • Natural disasters – People exposed to the devastating effects of earthquakes, hurricanes, or other natural disasters may abuse substances to deal with grief, anxiety, or distress. 

Understanding The Connection Between Trauma And Substance Abuse

Studies have shown how one in four kids in the US suffers from at least a single potentially traumatic event before they turn 16. Over 50% of these PTSD-suffering adolescents would later develop drug problems that substance abuse group therapies may be able to help. 

Childhood trauma and abuse may trigger abnormalities in brain development because of the release of high cortisol levels or other stress hormones. Some people dealing with traumatic stress or PTSD may resort to abusing drugs or alcohol to alleviate their distress. 

Individuals who survived traumatic experiences or have more exposure to such tend to have poorer coping abilities. If this is the case, interventions directed at people with high-risk factors for trauma should include coping skills training. It may help them address their trauma triggers and encourage them to seek help.

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How Does Group Therapy Help With Trauma? 

There are many reasons to try group therapy in Oregon, especially if you’re struggling with trauma. This could make you feel like you are not alone, helps you give and receive support, and improves your ability to express yourself and gain honest feedback from others.

It also lets you share your weaknesses and issues because others are doing the same thing. Moreover, it brings you greater self-awareness after listening to others.

For substance abuse group therapies to work, here are the guidelines for creating a safe and supportive treatment environment: 

  • Establish confidentiality to make everyone feel safe and comfortable sharing their experiences and thoughts.
  • Promote a non-judgmental atmosphere for people to share without the fear of criticism. 
  • Set clear guidelines, such as respecting everyone’s opinions, keeping everything confidential, avoiding interrupting other speakers, and being punctual. 
  • Encourage everyone to listen attentively and respond with understanding and empathy.
  • Provide emotional support to group members. 
  • Encourage group members to participate in activities and discussions within their comfort level.
  • Deal with conflict through active listening and respectful discussions.
  • Handle members’ relapse without making them feel guilty or ashamed, encouraging them to learn from their mistakes.
  • Provide aftercare support, such as referrals to support programs and encouragement for members to join other recovery support groups.

Group Activities For Exploring Trauma And Substance Abuse

Some group therapy activities for substance abuse worth exploring include:

  • Narrative therapy techniques – Group members share their trauma through speaking or writing about their personal stories, allowing them to gain more insight into their experiences and the effect of trauma on their substance misuse. 
  • Group discussion and reflection on personal experiences – Therapists facilitate group discussions as members exchange stories about their addiction and trauma. They encourage everyone to listen attentively, react with empathy, and validate emotions with the assurance that the group is a safe space for them.
  • Art therapy and other creative outlets – Painting, drawing, or other creative expressions can help group members process their trauma through non-verbal means. Other fun activities for rehab patients include drama, movement, music, play, equine-assisted, and poetry or writing therapies. 

What Is A Trauma-informed Approach To Substance Abuse? 

Trauma-informed care is a type of substance abuse treatment that assumes those with addiction problems have suffered trauma. It identifies the symptoms of trauma and the impact it leaves on a person’s life.

This approach seeks to provide accessible support to substance abuse survivors. It shifts the perspective of the treatment from figuring out what is wrong with the person to identify what happened to them that led to their addiction. 

Treatments that do not consider the trauma-informed approach may end up triggering the trauma or causing its symptoms to get worse, re-traumatizing people with substance use disorders.

fun activities for rehab patients

Source: Oregon Trail Recovery

Addressing Trauma In Substance Abuse Recovery 

Learning to manage and handle triggers is crucial in addressing trauma-related substance abuse. Here’s why:

  • To prevent trauma triggers from causing a relapse
  • To help regulate emotions
  • To improve resilience, allowing people to bounce back from failures and disappointments
  • To improve self-care, reminding people to take better care of themselves physically, emotionally, and psychologically

People suffering from addiction need ongoing support and therapy throughout their recovery for these reasons: 

  • Relapse prevention 
  • Root out the underlying causes of addiction
  • Establish a healthy lifestyle
  • Maintain a support system
  • Establish stronger coping skills
  • Continued personal growth
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People exposed to trauma are often left with traumatic stress or PTSD, causing some to cope using drugs or alcohol. If you are suffering from trauma-induced addiction, try substance abuse group therapies.

These can help you work through recovery with people going through the same thing, get support, and become more self-aware as you listen to others’ experiences. Group therapy works even better if done with a trauma-informed approach. 

You can look up group therapy near me in Oregon and find Oregon Trail Recovery. Contact us today and learn more about our services.