Trauma is an experience that can leave a deep imprint on an individual’s mind and body, often leading to a range of negative emotional, physical, and psychological symptoms. While traditional therapy may help with some of these symptoms, more severe cases of trauma often require a more intensive form of therapy, such as EMDR or ART. However, the process of healing from trauma can be a messy one, especially in a residential treatment program. This article will explore why clients can get “messy” in these programs, and how it can ultimately be beneficial for their trauma recovery.
What is a Residential Treatment Program?
A residential treatment program is an inpatient treatment program that provides a safe and supportive environment for clients to recover from trauma. These programs offer a range of services, including therapy, medication management, and holistic therapies such as yoga and mindfulness practices. Clients live at the facility full-time, which allows them to focus solely on their recovery and avoid the triggers and stressors of their daily lives. The length of the program varies depending on the individual’s needs and progress, but typically lasts several weeks to several months.
Why Clients Can Get “Messy” in a Residential Treatment Program
Clients often come to residential treatment programs with a long history of trauma, substance use or abuse, suicide attempts, self harm and many other mental health issues. They may have been struggling with these issues for years, and have developed coping mechanisms and habits that have helped them survive, but are not necessarily considered healthy. For example, they may have turned to drugs or alcohol to numb their emotional pain or engage in self-harm behaviors to cope with their overwhelming emotions.
When these clients enter a residential treatment program, they are often confronted with their trauma and its effects on their lives. This can be a difficult and emotional process, and clients may experience strong cravings or revert to old habits as a way of coping with the pain and discomfort that comes with the healing process. For example, a client who has a history of addiction may feel a strong urge to use drugs or alcohol when they are confronted with their trauma in individual, group or family therapy. Similarly, a client who has a history of purging may feel the urge to engage in those behaviors when they feel overwhelmed by their emotions.
How Getting “Messy” Can Benefit Trauma Recovery
While it may seem counterintuitive, getting “messy” can actually be beneficial for trauma recovery. This is because it allows clients to confront their old habits and coping mechanisms, and develop new and healthier ones. When clients experience strong cravings or revert to old habits, they are often doing so because those behaviors have been effective coping mechanisms for them in the past. By confronting these behaviors in a safe and supportive environment, clients can begin to understand why they engage in those behaviors, and learn new, healthier ways to cope with their emotions; ultimately, any effective treatment program, or therapist- wants you to get messy!
For example, a client who struggles with substance use may be confronted with the trauma that led them to use drugs or alcohol in the first place. By understanding the root cause of their substance use, they can begin to develop new coping mechanisms and learn how to manage their emotions in a healthy way. Similarly, a client who struggles with binging and purging may be able to understand why they engage in those behaviors and develop new, healthier ways to cope with overwhelming emotions.
In addition to helping clients develop new coping mechanisms, getting “messy” can also help clients build resilience and confidence in their ability to overcome their trauma. When clients experience strong cravings or revert to old habits, they may feel like they have failed in their recovery. However, by learning to manage these behaviors and develop new coping mechanisms, clients can build confidence in their ability to overcome their trauma and develop a sense of resilience that will help them in their recovery journey.
Moreover, residential trauma treatment centers also provide a safe environment where clients can feel supported and understood. Clients can share their experiences with others who are going through the same process, and they can learn from one another. They can receive peer support, validation, and encouragement, which can help them feel less isolated and alone. The program is structured to provide a supportive and non-judgmental environment, allowing clients to explore and address the root causes of their trauma.
One of the most significant benefits of attending a residential trauma treatment program is that it allows clients to “get messy” before they get better. By “getting messy,” we mean that clients may revert to old habits, experience strong cravings, or struggle with overwhelming emotions during the initial stages of treatment. These behaviors are normal and expected during the recovery process. In fact, it is often a sign that the client is beginning to process their trauma and confront the underlying issues that have been causing them pain.
Trauma treatment using EMDR or ART can be a challenging process, especially during the initial stages of therapy. These therapies work by helping the client reprocess their traumatic memories, which can be difficult and emotionally taxing. As the client begins to confront their trauma, they may experience intense emotions, such as anger, sadness, or fear. They may also experience physical symptoms, such as headaches or fatigue.
During this time, it is common for clients to experience cravings for drugs or alcohol, or to engage in other self-destructive behaviors. This is because these behaviors have been used in the past as coping mechanisms to deal with the pain and discomfort caused by trauma. However, as the client begins to confront and process their trauma, these coping mechanisms are no longer necessary or helpful. This can be a difficult adjustment, and clients may struggle to find new ways to cope with their emotions and feelings.
However, this “messy” period is a crucial part of the recovery process. By confronting and processing their trauma, clients can learn to manage their emotions in healthier ways. They can develop new coping skills, such as mindfulness, relaxation techniques, or journaling. They can also learn to identify and challenge negative thought patterns that may be contributing to their emotional distress. In this way, the “messy” period of recovery can actually be beneficial in helping clients develop the tools and skills they need to manage their trauma in the long-term.
Another benefit of attending a residential trauma treatment program is that it provides clients with a supportive and structured environment that can help them stay on track with their recovery. The program is designed to provide clients with the tools and resources they need to manage their emotions and develop new coping skills. Clients will receive both individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy or other forms of support to help them address the core issues that have been causing significant pain.
Additionally, residential trauma treatment programs often incorporate other forms of therapy and activities that can help clients manage their emotions and find new ways to cope with their trauma. For example, clients may participate in experiential therapy, music therapy, or recreational activities that can help them connect with their emotions in new ways, and discover new passions. These activities can also help clients develop a sense of community and connection with others who are going through the same process.
Making the decision to attend a residential trauma treatment program can be a difficult one, but ultimately it can be a rewarding experience for clients who are struggling with the effects of trauma. While the initial stages of treatment may be “messy,” this period of recovery is critical in helping clients develop the tools and skills they need to manage their emotions in the long-term. By providing a supportive and structured environment, residential trauma treatment programs can help clients confront and process their trauma, develop new coping skills, and find new ways to manage their emotions and create a long term, healthy life.