The Importance of Co-Treating Trauma and Addiction

Co-occurring trauma and addiction are complex conditions.  Research has shown that treating these disorders simultaneously is most effective, but this highly involved undertaking needs to be done in a professional setting.  Learn more about treatment methods here.


  • ‘Small t’ traumas, PTSD and what they mean for addiction treatment.
  • Research has shown that treating both addiction and trauma co-currently is more effective.

Over 50% of all people seeking treatment for addiction show symptoms of trauma, either in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or what are referred to as ‘small t’ traumas. Both types of trauma not only increase a person’s risk of developing addiction, but can have a serious impact on their ability to fully recover from addiction.

What is Trauma?

Much like physical trauma, psychological trauma involves being wounded in some way. The most widely recognized trauma disorder, PTSD, is typically caused by life-threatening events such as time spent at war, accidents, abuse, assault or natural disasters. ‘Small t’ traumas are typically caused by somewhat lesser, non-life-threatening events but still result in serious psychological distress.

Types of ‘Small t’ Trauma

There are two main types of ‘small t’ trauma that people suffering from addiction most often experience:

Developmental Trauma

Psychological trauma(s) experienced during ‘growing up’ years. Some examples may include:

  • Seeing parents engage in substance abuse
  • Witnessing domestic violence
  • Experiencing sexual, emotional or physical abuse

Relational Trauma

Pertains to negative experiences within one’s interpersonal relationships, such as with a partner. The most common form of relational trauma is domestic abuse.

Of course, it is definitely possible for a person to have experienced both developmental and relational trauma, which will undoubtedly increase their risk for addiction as well as the need for professional co-treatment of trauma and addiction.

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Co-occurring Addiction and Trauma: ‘Pandora’s Box’

Traditionally, the combination of trauma and addiction was believed to be a Pandora’s box. It was considered too difficult to attempt to treat the trauma during the early stages of addiction treatment in fear that digging up past trauma would open up wounds unnecessary to the process of successful recovery. The trauma would then be treated separately, often only after a solid one or two years of sobriety.

Why should Trauma and Addiction be Treated Together?

In recent years, however, research has shown that treating both addiction and trauma co-currently is more effective.

In individuals who are suffering from both trauma disorders and addiction, it has been shown that when only the addiction is treated, there is a much higher chance of relapse due to the underlying trauma that still plagues the mind. For this reason, it much more beneficial to treat trauma and addiction together.

Modern Treatment for Trauma and Addiction

The Cabin Chiang Mai boasts a unique and comprehensive programme to effectively treat trauma and addiction simultaneously. The suggested stay for our trauma and addiction programme is a minimum of 60 days.

The first 30 days will be reserved for stabilization, detoxification and addiction work as well as an opportunity for our trauma-trained psychotherapists to make a complete assessment.

The second 30 days will be used for both trauma treatment and further addiction treatment.

What are the Main Components of Trauma Treatment?

  • Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TFCBT)
  • Trauma releasing exercises
  • Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Comprehensive psycho-educational programme
  • One-on-one and group therapy

The Cabin’s Trauma Track

Referred to as the Trauma Track, our trauma and addiction programme is embedded in the highly supportive environment of The Cabin’s luxury residential treatment facility in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Trauma Track includes the following:

  • Full-time psychiatrist and team of 24-hour nursing staff, overseen by a lead Trauma Psychotherapist
  • Maximum of only 12 clients involved in Trauma Track at one time
  • Minimum of 30 days in the Trauma Track programme (60 days total treatment)
  • Two sessions per week with an addiction, trauma and EMDR-trained therapist
  • Minimum of 8 EMDR sessions
  • Four mornings per week dedicated to Trauma Track while also fully engaging in the ongoing addiction treatment programme

Using drugs or alcohol to cope with trauma

What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)?

EMDR is a unique psychotherapy developed specifically for the effective treatment of PTSD and trauma-related psychological issues. EMDR is designed to help trauma sufferers recall memories that are causing the pain and then reprocess them.

The goal is to learn from the remembered experiences and then store the memories again with appropriate emotions in the brain, guiding the person in positive ways in the future. Inappropriate or negative emotions, beliefs and bodily sensations that are associated with the memories will be discarded – essentially freeing the mind from the gripping fear of the associated trauma.

What are Trauma Release Exercises?

Trauma Release Exercise (TRE) is an innovative series of exercises created by international trauma intervention expert Dr. David Berceli. These are aimed to safely activate a natural reflex mechanism of shaking or vibrating that releases muscular tension, encouraging the body to return back to a state of balance.

These exercises should only be done with an accredited and fully trained therapist in a safe and controlled environment.

Getting Help for Trauma and Addiction

If you are suffering from past trauma such as domestic violence or childhood abuse and addiction, we can help. Our qualified counsellors are trained in both addiction and trauma treatment and can help you finally start living the life you were meant to live.

Remember, trauma does not include only the above-mentioned situations. At The Cabin, we classify trauma as any event that is extremely upsetting and at least temporarily overwhelms an individual’s internal resources or ability to cope.

It is important to understand that when it comes to treating trauma and addiction, the sooner that you seek help, the better your chances will be of a full recovery. If you have questions about how we can help you get on track to a better life, or would like to receive a free, no-obligations assessment, contact us today.