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Trauma and Addiction: Chicken and the Egg?

Guest Post provided by Jamie Marich, Ph.D., LPCC-S, LICDC, www.TraumaTwelve.com.

The question always comes up in recovery and treatment communities, which should we address first, the addiction or the trauma? People are passionate about their opinions. In 12-step circles, I hear people express their beliefs that too much focus on trauma or mental health issues can give addicts an “excuse” to use or to stay suck in a vicious cycle of blame. In mental health arenas, even at international trauma conferences, I hear experts put down 12-step recovery and other traditional methods, declaring them outdated. A common sentiment is, “If we can just help people resolve the trauma that led them to use in the first place, then the desire to drink or use will just clear up.”

Neither extreme is healthy. Those who embrace the “they’re just addicts” mentality run the risk of alienating people who are new to recovery because they seem to only see the addiction, not the whole person. Those who feel that resolving the trauma will resolve the addiction ignore the damage that the addiction already caused, to the brain and to a person’s overall lifestyle. Like with many things in life, the best approach seems to be a balance.

Professionals and recovery communities need to realize that for many people seeking help, both the trauma and addiction are issues and they both need to be addressed. Many holistic coping skills are useful in addressing both addiction and traumatic stress concerns. Breathing exercises, guided imagery, muscle relaxation skills, yoga, and experiential psychotherapy are a few examples. Like with the classic chicken-or-the-egg discourse, does it really matter which one came first or should come first in treatment, the addiction or the trauma? What matters is that we acknowledge, in many people, they are both issues and optimal treatment for a person who is suffering needs to be inclusive of the whole person and his whole story.


Dr. Jamie Marich is a licensed clinical counselor and chemical dependency counselor in the State of Ohio, and the creator of the “Dancing Mindfulness” practice. She travels the country offering continuing education workshops and retreats on issues related to trauma and addiction. She is the author of Trauma and the Twelve Steps: A Complete Guide to Enhancing Recovery and EMDR Made Simple: 4 Approaches for Using EMDR with Every Client. Her dissertation on the use of EMDR in addiction continuing care was published in the prestigious APA journal, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

For more: www.TraumaTwelve.com, www.DancingMindfulness.com, www.jamiemarich.com, www.drjamiemarich.com

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2 Responses to Trauma and Addiction: Chicken and the Egg?

  1. Tiger November 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    I’ve been clean for a year now, I’m in a program cealld drug court where i’m drug tested weekly. The program is about over now so i’m worried. I have stayed clean for3 and 4 years at a time, but the meth always takes over again. I am a miserable man looking for an answer.Don

  2. Odilon November 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    You should coedisnr filling out our form for help. After you fille out the form, on the success page, there is an option to download our Recovery Tips booklet. That is a start. And we have counselors that can be contacted for more assistance. Please call or write any time!

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