What Is Trauma Therapy and How Can It Help Get to the Root/Core Causes of Addiction and Mental Health Issues?

Addiction Recovery Publishing Nutrition December 12, 2023

What Is Trauma Therapy and How Can It Help Get to the Root/Core Causes of Addiction and Mental Health Issues?

There is a traditional phrase that we have here on Hawaii’s Big Island that goes, “NĀNĀ I KE KUMU.” This phrase represents one’s mission to find their place in the world, one’s mission to find their truth. Also, this is what has to happen when we are trying to get to the root/core causes of our addiction and mental health issues. This is what has to happen when we are trying to uncover any emotional trauma that we may be carrying. One way (of many) to do this is via something known as trauma therapy. 

The Importance of Getting to the Root/Core Causes of Addiction and Mental Health Issues

An iconic Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, said, “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” This type of “suffering” is what those with trauma often deal with daily. The thing is that many people may not even know that their suffering is manifest in deeply rooted emotional trauma.

For many people who struggle with issues of addiction and mental health, the root/core cause of their problem lies within some form of unearthed trauma. This is why many people in the recovery world often say “alcohol and drugs are but a ‘symptom’ of deeper underlying issues.” So, because of the nature of this unearthed emotional dynamic, it becomes crucial to get to the “hidden” bottom of things. Only when these issues are addressed can one fully heal at the cellular level.

The Benefits of Trauma Therapy for Healing Addiction and Mental Health Issues

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Center for PTSD, about “6 of every 10 men (or 60%) and 5 of every 10 women (or 50%) experience at least one trauma in their lives. Some people may recover within a few months after the event, but for others, it may take years or may even begin long after the events occur… Regardless of the type of treatment explored, it is critical to recognize the significant effects of trauma, versus avoiding it.” This is where trauma therapy can help.

The essence of trauma therapy (also known as “trauma-informed care”) is that any past instances of trauma are taken into account when other types of therapy are being utilized. Doing this ensures that there is little to no chance of “re-traumatization.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Adopting a trauma-informed approach is not accomplished through any single particular technique or checklist. It requires constant attention, caring awareness, sensitivity, and possibly a cultural change at an organizational level.” The CDC also explains that there are six “guiding principles” when it comes to trauma-informed care. These are “safety, trustworthiness and transparency, peer support, collaboration and mutuality, empowerment and choice, cultural, historical and gender issues.” Now, when it comes to issues of addiction and mental health, all of these principles must be taken into account when engaging in any form of therapy or utilizing any recovery modality.

Understanding the Various Other Types of Therapies to Add to Trauma Therapy for Optimal Recovery

When dealing with issues of addiction and mental health, trauma-informed care must be infused into every other treatment modality that is used. This can only happen after a proper diagnosis and a rigorous intake at a reputable recovery center. 

It is important to connect with a recovery center that is willing to look past an initial diagnosis to determine all of the underlying issues that may be going on. Often, people with substance use disorder (SUD) also struggle with issues of anxiety and depression due to repressed trauma. Also, people who are struggling with trauma that they are aware of try to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. In both of these instances, it is possible to “underdiagnose” an individual. 

When this involves trauma, it can be particularly harmful because that trauma must be taken into account in all aspects of a recovery plan. This includes a recovery plan that involves psychedelic therapy, nature immersion therapy, surf therapy, horticulture therapy, nutrition therapy, psychotherapy, and the list could go on and on.

Healing Addiction and Mental Health Issues: Understanding ‘Traditional’ Mental Health Therapies

“Traditional” mental health therapies (also known as psychotherapy or “evidence-based” therapy) are perhaps the most utilized type of treatment in the addiction and mental health recovery realm today. This is understandable as they have the most concrete evidence and a wealth of studies that show their efficacy.

The most frequently used of all of the psychotherapies is what is known as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It is also the most frequently used therapy when it comes to individuals who have underlying issues of trauma.

CBT has been utilized since the mid-to-late 20th Century. According to the peer-reviewed article The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analyses, “Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) refers to a class of interventions that share the basic premise that mental disorders and psychological distress are maintained by cognitive factors. The core premise of this treatment approach, as pioneered by Beck (1970) and Ellis (1962), holds that maladaptive cognitions contribute to the maintenance of emotional distress and behavioral problems… The basic model posits that therapeutic strategies to change these maladaptive cognitions lead to changes in emotional distress and problematic behaviors.”

It is these “maladaptive cognitions” (negative thoughts) that correlate to underlying trauma, which is why trauma must be sussed out if any whole mind-body healing is to take place. Of course, CBT is not the only way to address these negative thoughts and emotions; other therapies have been shown to be highly effective at doing so. One that is becoming more and more popular in recent years is ketamine therapy.

Healing Addiction and Mental Health Issues: Understanding Ketamine Therapy

Psychedelics have been used in religious and spiritual practices for thousands of years. They have also been experimented with for the treatment of addiction and mental health issues for longer than people may realize. There was much interest in psychedelic therapy in the mid-20th Century. However, socio-conservative issues and policies got in the way and stopped any meaningful research from taking place. This has changed in recent years, especially with the psychedelic ketamine.

The 2019 peer-reviewed article Efficacy of Ketamine Therapy in the Treatment of Depression, reported a study that found that there was “a significant improvement in depression, anxiety, and the severity of illness after 2 weeks and 1 month of the last dose of ketamine. Significant improvement at 1st [hour] of the first dose was seen in depression and anxiety and not for illness severity… Ketamine has a robust and rapid effect on depression, which was seen immediately after the administration of ketamine and sustained at the end of 1 month.” When applied to trauma-related anxiety and depression, these effects can be essential and life-changing.

Healing Addiction and Mental Health Issues: Understanding Nature Immersion Therapy

Another way to address trauma is by getting away from one’s internal struggles and having some meaningful experiences. This is the basis of experiential therapies. These are therapies in which the individual engages with the world around them or participates in some type of creative activity. One exceptional form of experiential therapy is nature immersion therapy.

Nature immersion therapy is a natural way to get over trauma. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Besides physical health improvements, nature exposure can bring about positive influence upon psychological constructs such as boredom, friendliness, wellbeing, and liveliness… Besides improvements to physical and psychological well-being, exposure to natural environments has been shown to bring about positive impacts on cognitive functioning.” Also, “While cognitive restoration and physiological well-being are the prominent and renowned benefits of nature exposure, there is one important construct that is often overlooked in environmental psychology research studies – that is, the human-nature relationship; also known as connectedness to nature (CN).”

It should also be noted that there is perhaps no better place on Earth to experience nature immersion therapy than on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. At Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, our luxury recovery center is located mere jaunts away from beautiful waterfalls, wonderous ocean overlooks, white sand beaches, and even live volcanoes. We are also a mere 15 minutes away from one of the best surf breaks on Hawaii’s Big Island: Honoli’i. This is also where some life-changing surf therapy can take place.

Healing Addiction and Mental Health Issues: Understanding Surf Therapy

Surf therapy is another form of experiential therapy that can be crucial for addressing trauma and healing at the cellular level. It can also help with physical ailments and the essential mind-body connection needed for recovery at an optimal level.

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Carefully planned water activities tailored to the needs of the individual can contribute to correct psychosocial and cognitive development. The International Surf Therapy Organization summarizes the benefits of adequately indicated surf therapy as follows: improved physical health and mobility; improved mental health, including reduction of specific symptoms, such as posttraumatic stress and depression; improved well-being (strengthening of trust and confidence, encouragement of independence, resilience and protective coping strategies) and improved social skills.” Surf therapy has also been shown to specifically help with issues of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the 2019 journal Frontiers in Psychology, “The emerging evidence-base suggests that surf therapy is effective in improving mental health outcomes among vulnerable youth, disabled populations, and military veterans. For example, a study conducted in the United Kingdom (UK) examining the effects of surfing on the well-being of combat veterans found that surfing elevated subjective well-being through a sense of respite from worries, increased positive emotions, and connection with others. Surf therapy has also been found to be associated with significantly lower post-traumatic stress disorder and depressive symptoms, increases in positive affect, and decreased negative affect, anxiety, and depression.” Horticulture therapy is another experiential therapy that shows similar benefits and is unique to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab.

Healing Addiction and Mental Health Issues: Understanding Horticulture Therapy

When one walks onto the grounds of our 15-acre luxury recovery center, they will be met by some of the most beautiful landscapes they can imagine. This is because we take our environment seriously and sacredly. That is why we incorporate horticulture throughout the grounds. We have rows of lime, orange, tangerine, and langon fruit trees, pineapple patches, guava bushes, and raised-bed vegetable boxes, all of which have been cultivated by our clients as they engage in horticulture therapy.

Horticulture has been used as a form of mindfulness for thousands of years. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Horticulture could have emotional benefits, such as reducing stress, reducing psychiatric symptoms, stabilizing mood, and increasing the sense of tranquility, spirituality, and enjoyment… It could help people to reduce fatigue and restore attention and cognitive ability… It could help people to engage in purposeful activities and develop a sense of accomplishment and productivity.”

Horticulture therapy can help with trauma because it can help people engage with the external world rather than their internal strife. It also allows individuals to see the cycle of life that they are wholly a part of. This can lead to purpose and increase the motivation to progress in recovery. Also, horticulture therapy is a perfect companion to something else we offer at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab: nutrition therapy.

Healing Addiction and Mental Health Issues: Understanding Nutrition Therapy

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we believe in the maxim, “Food is medicine.” This is why we focus so intently on ensuring that all of our clients get the proper nutrition they need to heal at the cellular level. 

Many people may not realize just how nutrient-deprived we can become when we are struggling with issues of trauma, addiction, and mental illness. That is why it is critical that these nutrients be replenished as soon as possible.

According to the peer-reviewed article New Approaches to Nutritional Therapy, “Nutritional Therapy uses food to prevent and reverse diseases that plague most Western societies: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, arthritis, and depression. In order for food to be therapeutic, it must be nutrient-dense, measured in part by the nutrients and anti-nutrients, contained in consumed foods.” We focus on that nutrient density by having licensed and accredited nutritionists and dieticians available for all of our client’s needs.

Also, we don’t skimp on enjoyment when it comes to food. Yes, our foods are nutrient-rich, but they are also prepared by world-class chefs and are specified for individual needs and preferences. We also utilize pharmaceutical-grade supplements and infusion therapy to ensure that our clients are nutritionally healing at the cellular level.

Healing at the Cellular Level With Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

Thich Nhat Hanh also said, “Peace in the world starts with peace in oneself. If everyone lives mindfully, everyone will be more healthy, feel more fulfilled in their daily lives and there will be more peace.” That is one of our goals here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab: to help our clients feel fulfilled once again. This is essential for whole mind-body healing, especially for those individuals who are struggling to overcome trauma associated with their addiction and mental health issues.

Just as we practice “NĀNĀ I KE KUMU” and our mission to find our place in the world, we also practice “KA LĀ HIKI OLA.” KA LĀ HIKI OLA is a traditional Hawaiian saying that means that there is always hope and optimism in the dawning of a new day. For those looking for a way out of their current suffering, we are here. We are here to help open up the positive dawning of a new day in the life of recovery and the world of healing.

Trauma is something that can hold back our recovery (this is true both for those initially diagnosed with a trauma disorder and those who have yet to discover any instances of trauma that they are holding onto). Trauma therapy can help get to the root/core causes of trauma and can be critical for healing at the cellular level. If you feel like you or a loved one is struggling with issues of trauma, addiction, and/or any other type of mental illness, we can help get you onto the road to long-term recovery. For more information about the benefits of trauma therapy for optimal healing, please reach out to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab today at (808) 775-0200.