Seeking Safety is a cognitive behavioral present day focused category of coping skills to help people stabilize when they are recovering from addictions either with PTSD or without. It was developed as an integrated treatment for PTSD/substance abuse that can be used in early recovery from both disorders. The treatment manual offers a guide to the therapist and handouts for the clients with core principles being; safety as priority, integration for trauma and substance abuse, focusing on ideals, four content areas (cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal, and management), and attention to clinical processes. The seven interpersonal topics are; Asking for Help, Honesty, Setting Boundaries in Relationships, Healthy Relationships, Community Resources, Healing from Anger, and Getting Others to Support Your Recovery. The program offers diversity and is inclusive in areas needing attention for trauma and addictions.
There is often trauma behind the addiction or/and during the addiction which results in dysregulation of emotions and behavior with either hyper-arousal or hypo-arousal either with PTSD or not. When hyper-arousal occurs there is frequently an expression of anger or other emotions towards others which may be inappropriate and excessive for what has transpired, or abusive behaviors, irrational explosions or other behaviors that later need an apology for. Hypo-arousal is the opposite and shows up as tiredness, falling asleep, and being bored. Both these behaviors make progression difficult because a person in either one of these states has problems taking information in to help themselves. Strategies from Seeking Safety over time help people in recovery to self- regulate so they can learn more effectively, work on their trauma with less distress or with knowing how to regulate if they become distressed, and make every day life easier when upsetting experiences occur.
In my groups in the past, they have been one and one half hours in length and the topics included learning strategies for life to be able to effectively balance life’s energies. The following topics were included in the previous group; how to develop safety with coping skills, identifying ways that thoughts effect your feelings, how to effectively manage emotional pain, how to effectively manage self-care and take action, how to become self-compassionate and give yourself the love, affection and self nurturing you deserve, understanding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and PTSD symptoms, taking your power back by learning about PTSD, what are your red and green flags and how these affect your recovery?, how to cope with triggers. and termination: coping with feelings around endings. Art Therapy is added weekly.
An art therapy exercise is introduced to express feelings and body sensations around the weekly theme. This does several things that are helpful for trauma resolution. One of the major advantages is that it helps people get into their feelings. We tend to be very cognitive in our expressions and lose the art of expression through our feelings and body sensations. Additionally, feelings and body sensations are often blocked with addictions. The art expression helps the clients explore their feelings and experience their feelings through body sensations. Both expression of feelings and body held sensations when explored from the art expression help the client to start exploring another method of experience of healing.
Irene Haire, MC, CRAT Registered Provisional Psychologist is in private practice in Edmonton at The GB Building 200-9562- 82 Avenue 780-232-1055 www.cloverdalecounselling.com;
*Seeking Safety: A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse by Lisa M. Najavits