Why Trauma-Informed Care Is Essential for Veterans in Addiction Recovery

Why Trauma-Informed Care Is Essential for Veterans

Veterans are a unique population of individuals who have endured myriad challenges throughout their lives, especially while they were on active duty. Veterans experience increased risks of developing substance use disorder (SUD) as well as other mental health disorders due to a combination of factors such as trauma related to their service or extreme physical and mental exertion.

Numerous treatments are available to treat trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, many approaches include exposure therapy and response techniques that could potentially re-traumatize veterans. In order to successfully treat veterans who have substance use issues, SUD or other mental health conditions, treatment facilities must utilize a trauma-informed treatment approach.

What is trauma-informed care in addiction recovery?

Trauma-informed care programs utilize a whole-person approach to navigating treatment and recovery. They do this by attempting to grasp a complete picture of a person’s life situation, both past and present, in order to create an effective, individualized treatment plan.

For veterans specifically, trauma-informed care approaches usually seek to:

  • Recognize and address the impact of trauma across all communities
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in individual patients, as well as the patients’ family members
  • Integrate knowledge regarding trauma into effective policies, procedures and practices
  • Actively avoid re-traumatization

There are six core principles of trauma-informed care.

The six core principles of trauma-informed care include:

  1. Safety: Throughout treatment and recovery, veterans can expect to feel physically and psychologically safe as they are receiving care.
  2. Trustworthiness and transparency: Decisions that are made about a veteran’s treatment plan are done so with utmost transparency. Trauma-informed care prioritizes the goal of building and maintaining trust with the patient at all times.
  3. Peer support: Trauma-informed care often requires peer engagement with others who have experienced similar life challenges. Veterans are able to share their experiences with other peers in a safe group therapy setting when they feel comfortable, which can be integrated into treatment and recovery.
  4. Collaboration and mutuality: Collaboration requires a balance of shared-decision making between staff and patients. Power differences are leveled when treatment centers utilize a trauma-informed approach.
  5. Empowerment and choice: Staff members consciously work so that the patient feels validated in their own experiences. Patients’ and staff members’ strengths are recognized and integrated throughout treatment and recovery.  Empowerment includes encouraging the belief in resilience as well as the ability to heal from past traumas.
  6. Humility and responsiveness: Trauma-informed care brings attention to very real historical trauma, biases and stereotypes that may complicate healing. All cultural, historical and gender issues will be addressed and worked through.

It is important to recognize that trauma-informed care is not accomplished by one technique or any checklist of tasks. Trauma-informed care is constant and requires genuine sensitivity and awareness of a patient’s unique challenges and circumstances that have led them to seek treatment.

Trauma-informed care is essential for veterans in addiction recovery treatment.

Understandably, many post-war veterans experience PTSD and other types of trauma. Everyone experiences trauma differently, whether it is a one-time experience or long-lasting, repetitive events. However, the impact of trauma on veterans can often be destructive and lead to long-lasting physical and mental health consequences.

The effects of PTSD can reach far and wide. PTSD can make it hard for individuals to complete normal, everyday activities. It can make relationships and social connections more challenging, especially among close family and friends. Fortunately, trauma-informed treatment programs can act as a safe haven where veterans can seek refuge from intrusive thoughts and impulsive behavior. These environments can serve as the ultimate place for healing.

Trauma-informed care avoids re-traumatization.

Re-traumatization occurs when a situation or environment triggers challenging emotions that an individual associates with their own traumatic past. Although re-traumatization is often unintentional, it can occur in treatment settings that utilize exposure therapy as means of reducing conditioned responses to seemingly life-threatening stimuli. Still, re-traumatization can also occur in less obvious ways, such as hearing specific phrases, experiencing similar interactions or hearing specific sounds that can remind an individual of their trauma.

Trauma-informed care acknowledges the concerns with re-traumatization, especially for veterans. It strives to understand the whole of the patient seeking healing and helps a patient understand how their past trauma has affected their present behavior. Veterans are deserving of a place to heal where they do not feel judged, intimidated or fearful of unwittingly reliving their past.

Veterans do not deserve to suffer in silence. While treatment’s main goal is to improve a patient’s quality of life, trauma-informed care has the potential to improve patient engagement, reduce or eliminate substance use, strengthen the relationship between patient and provider and boost overall mental and physical health outcomes for the patient.

Casa Palmera recognizes that veterans often need additional treatment resources in order to successfully recover from their past traumas. We offer residential treatment programs for those in active military service as well as veterans. We utilize a trauma-informed lens so that patients can experience whole-person healing. Call Casa Palmera today at (855) 508-0473.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.