Trauma-informed Treatment

Trauma-informed Residential Treatment

Trauma-informed mental health care allows trauma survivors to first address the symptoms of a diagnosed mental illness like depression, anxiety, or borderline personality disorder before processing their trauma.

Why is trauma-informed treatment important?

Research indicates that when trauma co-occurs with another mental illness, often the best course of treatment to is treat the trauma second, after first resolving the disability caused by the depression, anxiety, BPD, or other illness with the goal of developing resiliency for the hard work of treating trauma.

Processing trauma can be difficult and painful. When beginning trauma treatment, clients often get worse before they get better.

Trauma work is more effective when survivors have the internal capacity and external support needed to fully engage and complete the treatment. It would be difficult to do that while mired in a depressive episode or while suffering from unrelenting panic attacks.

This is especially important if someone has attempted suicide, has thoughts of suicide, or is engaging in self harm or other high risk behaviors. Beginning trauma work while someone is at risk for suicide can be dangerous.

What is trauma-informed treatment?

The residential mental health treatment program at Skyland Trail offers trauma-informed care. Through evidence-based medication strategies and therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) clients gradually feel more in control of their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. They develop skills to learn how to get through uncomfortable or triggering situations without acting impulsively or harming themselves. They are able to build support networks of family and friends. And they discover healthy ways to reinforce their self-worth by participating in their communities through work, education, volunteerism, or the arts.

Throughout treatment, care providers acknowledge that the client has experienced trauma and validate the emotions arising from that experience. But the treatment team does not ask the client to describe or re-live the trauma in any way. Treatment strategies are focused on helping the client develop skills to handle difficult emotions and stressful situations in healthy ways.

Completing trauma-informed psychiatric treatment for depression, anxiety, BPD, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia allows clients to develop insight, adopt skills, and build a strong foundation for healthy living. Clients who are trauma survivors are then better prepared and equipped to pursue formal trauma treatment with a specialized mental health provider.

Additional Specialized Treatment for Trauma

After developing appropriate coping skills and insight, some Skyland Trail patients engage in additional layers of specialized programming to begin addressing the specific impact of trauma on their mental health while in treatment at Skyland Trail.

In 2022, Skyland Trail introduced Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for adult patients with a co-occurring PTSD diagnosis who have “stuck points” following a traumatic event and are struggling to make progress in treatment due to related symptoms.

Adult patients assigned to CPT groups participate in two CPT groups weekly in addition to their ongoing individual and group work on CBT or DBT skills. Patients are not required to describe their trauma explicitly but are instead asked to explore the ways their traumatic experiences have impacted their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions and have created barriers to pursuing the life they want to live. Working with our CPT-trained clinicians, patients learn skills to challenge unhealthy patterns and build new skills to help them move forward.

Teens with a history of trauma admitting to our adolescent residential treatment program may be referred by our psychiatrist to participate in individual prolonged exposure therapy (PE) as part of their treatment.

Prolonged exposure therapy may be particularly helpful for clients who have trauma-related symptoms that prevent them from fully engaging in foundational CBT or DBT therapeutic work.

The goal of PE is to reduce the power of the memory of the traumatic event over time. With less potency, the memory becomes less disruptive, and the patient is better able to engage more fully in treatment to address other psychiatric symptoms and improve coping and interpersonal skills.

In 2023, the Skyland Trail adolescent clinical team received training in prolonged exposure therapy through the Prolonged Exposure Consultant Training Program at Emory University School of Medicine and is working toward certification in PE.

Client Experiences

If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-273-8255.