Treating Trauma: The Next Chapter Approach

In a previous blog article, we discussed at length how the deep, intensive distress of personal trauma can often lead to dysfunction, dependency, and self-destructive behavior. Unfortunately, although the link between trauma and addiction has been well known for decades, it is uncommon for addiction treatment to focus upon resolving trauma. It is even less common for those facing addiction to recognize trauma as the underlying cause.

Therefore, at Next Chapter, we have to spend a lot of time educating. Not only do we work with closely clients and their families to define, or even redefine, what trauma is, but we also find ourselves constantly working to help the recovery community recognize the need to uncover and treat trauma in order to truly conquer addiction.

It is not uncommon for clients to come for us for treatment for addiction only to learn that their dependencies are really just a symptom of unresolved developmental and relational trauma. By helping them treat their trauma, we enable them to better understand and conquer their addictions and dysfunctional behavior.

Once clients learn how trauma can affect them, we assign them tasks designed to help them identify trauma through their lifetime. Clients are urged to present their assignments in a group setting, where can share and receive feedback with others in the group.

Because personal trauma is often obscured in a cloud of secrecy that promotes isolation, sharing with a group can help the client feel more normal and accepted, and help lift the burden imposed by keeping their trauma secret. Fellow clients are almost uniquely adept at identifying not only with actual events, but also with the impact, feelings and stress that continue to resonate in trauma’s wake. What occurs is that learning about one client’s trauma helps every client in the group better identify and understand their own.

Identifying and sharing is also extremely important in our work with families, since families are often closest to (if not the actual source of) a client’s trauma. It’s essential that our clinical team works closely with family members to gain more information and a better understanding of a client’s trauma, for the benefit of all. To this end, Next Chapter keeps family members in close contact with the client’s primary therapist throughout their treatment, and maintains a weekly contact with a family therapist to focus on the healing of the family system itself.

Because trauma is an intense experience, so too must be the healing from it. Next Chapter helps clients activate and release the trapped stress of their trauma through a series of experiential therapies such as somatic experiencing, breathwork, psychodrama, feeling reduction work, and inner child work, as well as yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness exercises.

Participation in these therapies is not only clinically driven, but part of an integrated treatment plan woven into our daily schedule. Each weekday morning, our clients begin their day with yoga and meditation, and we reinforce mindfulness techniques frequently throughout the day to help re-orient clients and stabilize their nervous system.

Once clients begin releasing their unresolved traumatic stress, they begin to build the capacity to better deal with the common stresses of their day-to-day lives. Because unresolved trauma tends to cause clients to focus on the past and fear the future, it is important that we address the future as early as possible. Thus, our discharge planning process begins as soon as clients show progress unpacking their trauma.

Our goal is always to help clients move from reaction to responsibility. Clients usually come to us incapable of imagining life beyond the dependencies in which they are trapped. As they come to terms with the stress caused by their trauma, learning to identify and release it, they are encouraged to consider a future in which they are able to mitigate their dependencies independently.

Additionally, Next Chapter promotes the concept of independent living by maintaining weekday and weekend schedules, requiring clients to cook and clean up after themselves, and by enforcing codes of personal conduct at all times. Our group setting actually supports this process by providing a sense of belonging that often counteracts the isolation felt by many clients struggling with dependencies.

All of our work is done in a safe space. Next Chapter operates as a protective container where clients can fully experience everything they need to experience in order to heal. We ensure that all activities have a therapeutic focus, and we provide 24-hour supervision by staff members that have been trained to manage the emotional and behavioral fallout that often occurs during the process of treating trauma. Thus, everything, even behavior outside of the group and clinical setting is incorporated into the therapeutic process.

Our clinical staff meets every morning to staff the clients and determine therapeutic resourcing and interventions needed on a client-by-client basis. We keep our client load limited to ensure that we can provide the intensive personal scrutiny and care that each client needs. Although we focus on treating trauma, we never lose sight of the fact that we must also treat the onerous symptom that is addiction. Therefore, we utilize 12-step recovery and fellowship to aide our clients in managing their addictions, adding the clinical focus that informs all of the work that we do.

Sadly, there are no simple solutions. No “one-size-fits-all” treatments. Trauma is the insidious underbelly of addiction, and the only way to treat it and the dependencies and dysfunction that reverberate from it is to treat the entire person as a whole in a contained, clinical setting.

You can learn more about Next Chapter and our treatment methods on our website at