Many individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) have co-occurring conditions and symptoms related to trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, and depression are common dual diagnoses for individuals who have experienced traumatic or stressful events. According to Depression and Anxiety, “[T]he link between trauma exposure and substance abuse has been well-established.” Facilities like the Vanity Wellness Center offer a wide range of holistic treatment options for individuals who struggle with substance misuse and trauma responses.
What Is Somatic Experiencing Therapy?
Trauma and stress responses can directly affect rehabilitation and long-term recovery. You might find it challenging to focus, feel motivated, or trust the clinical team if your mind and body constantly feel on edge. Personalized holistic therapy is an excellent tool for learning ways to cope with stress and overcome roadblocks related to trauma in treatment. Somatic experiencing (SE) therapy is a standard alternative therapy offered by many rehabilitation programs.
SE is a mind-body therapy that provides relief by replacing trauma responses to everyday stressors with balanced emotional reactions. According to the Journal of Traumatic Stress, “The focus of the therapy is on creating awareness of inner physical sensations, which are seen as the carriers of the traumatic memory.” Grounding techniques, mindfulness, and mind-body exercises all play a part in retraining the nervous system to remain calm during stressful moments.
The Connection Between Trauma and Substance Misuse
Mental and physical health are closely linked. Your environment and how you process experiences can play a significant role in the effectiveness of treatment and recovery. Trauma and SUD share multiple connections, including:
- Substance misuse increases the risk of experiencing trauma
- Experiencing a trauma increases the risk of developing a substance use or mental health disorder
- Trauma response can interfere with treatment and increase symptom severity
- Substance misuse can worsen trauma responses
- Trauma and substance misuse can occur independently and require simultaneous treatment
Trauma responses and SUD tend to exacerbate each other and can cause crippling anxiety, depression, and feelings of hopelessness if either is left untreated. You can overcome the fear and pain by actively participating in therapy and holistic treatments, including alternative therapies like somatic experiencing therapy.
What to Expect During a Session
Every therapist has their own approach to SE techniques, and you will need to find one that suits you. However, there are a few commonly used therapeutic tools you can expect to use during a SE session, including:
- Grounding exercises
- Guided meditation
- Body relaxation and awareness exercises
The therapist will work with you to determine what techniques you best respond to and incorporate them into your treatment plan.
Common Exercises and Techniques
During sessions, you will learn to center yourself and slow down the processing of your environment and senses. Examples of grounding techniques include:
- Being aware of your body by verbally describing how each part of your body feels
- Being aware of your breathing
- Cataloging where you feel certain emotions and tension in your body
- Guided relaxation and mindfulness exercises
- Connecting emotions to physical sensations
Each of these techniques strengthens the mind-body connection and slowly overwrites maladaptive trauma responses.
Benefits of Somatic Experiencing Therapy
Processing how your body responds to thoughts and stressors will make it easier for you to recognize when your body begins to react negatively to stimuli. Once you learn how to identify the body sensations connected to trauma, you can start to counter them with mindfulness, grounding, and relaxation exercises learned in SE sessions.
Some of the benefits of SE include:
- A safe template for rewiring trauma responses
- Improved mind-body connection
- Increased self-awareness and self-efficacy
- A greater ability to process and regulate emotions
- Decreased anxiety and depression symptoms
Facilities like Vanity Wellness Center often incorporate SE into intensive outpatient (IOP) and partial hospitalization (PHP) programs. You can use this form of therapy to help you decrease symptoms and trauma responses that might be interfering with your ability to achieve and maintain sobriety or positive mental health.
How We Treat Trauma
At Vanity Wellness Center, we use trauma-informed care to ensure our clients feel safe and comfortable during the rehabilitation process. Somatic experiencing therapy is only one of the many methods we use to treat trauma responses and related mental health issues. Some of the other evidence-based treatments we offer at our facility include:
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
- Stress tolerance
- Gestalt therapy
You can heal from the effects of trauma. The clinicians at Vanity Wellness Center will collaborate with you to determine the best treatment plan to meet your needs.
The human body is complicated, and sometimes trauma can live in the nervous system. This can leave you feeling stressed, anxious, or tense whenever you experience moments of distress or pressure. Somatic experiencing therapy addresses trauma and stress responses by overwriting the body’s automatic reactions. You do not have to continue living with the debilitating effects of trauma or let it interfere with your treatment and recovery. The techniques and skills you learn in somatic experiencing therapy can be used in all areas of life to promote calmness and a healthier view of yourself and the world around you. Vanity Wellness Center offers a range of trauma-focused therapies to help our clients overcome issues that might be holding them back from maintaining emotional stability or sobriety. To learn more about the services and programs we have to offer, reach out to our office today by calling us at (866) 587-1737.