Addiction and trauma treatment for long-term recovery
Trauma comes from the Latin word meaning “wounded.” When it comes to drug and alcohol addiction, many people have experienced childhood trauma or other traumatic events in life which have left them “wounded” in ways that negatively impact them today. Such trauma can cause symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, mood instability, hyper-arousal, and unresolved fear and shame. Research demonstrates a strong correlation between trauma and addiction.
People impacted by trauma may have difficulty coping with daily life. They may also be more susceptible to repeated patterns of self-harm such as medicating with drugs and alcohol to gain relief. The more a person uses, the worse the disease progresses and the harder the consequences in life.
Treating trauma as a root cause of drug or alcohol addiction
Drug and alcohol addiction treatment begins with assessing whether there is underlying trauma. If trauma does exist in a patient’s past, we can then look at its connection to addictive behavior. We can also address a patient’s current needs related to the trauma.
At Mirmont Treatment Center our therapists are trauma-competent meaning each one of them is highly trained in understanding trauma and its connection to addictive disorder while also being skilled in treating trauma in a safe and therapeutic way. Patients are able to work at group and individual levels to identify and process uncomfortable feelings related to trauma while developing healthy skills for coping with emotional pain and distress. Ultimately, patients gain a new perspective and begin to heal from past events, which increases the overall experience of recovery.
All of Mirmont’s clinical services are trauma-informed and emphasize the importance of safety. Trauma-sensitive services include yoga, meditation, psychoeducational lectures, individual therapy, small group therapy, gender-specific groups, groups for co-occurring disorders, and pain management services. Research has demonstrated yoga and meditation as very effective in reducing PTSD symptoms while helping to reverse the non-verbal imprints of prior traumatic events.
Mirmont offers an internationally-acclaimed trauma-specific group, called the Phoenix Group, which meets twice each week for extended sessions. This strength-based group takes its name from the mythical figure of the phoenix, which is a symbol of post-traumatic growth. The Phoenix Group, with its emphasis on safety, primarily utilizes experiential therapy and the creative arts therapies—including sociometry, psychodrama, art therapy, and other interactive modalities. These services allow the group to move beyond stories and narratives while putting things into action, providing a more embodied healing experience.
Phoenix group sessions help clients develop a sense of safety, connect with group members, and uncover the intersections of their addiction and trauma. Instead of sitting in a circle telling war stories about trauma, this action-based group focuses on renegotiating the non-verbal imprints of trauma.
Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy
EMDR is one of the most researched and most effective trauma treatments available. It is facilitated in individual sessions and begins with identifying and accessing the client’s positive internal resources. These positive resources serve as helpful tools for regulating emotions and cravings outside of therapy. EMDR works by targeting specific traumatic memories for desensitization and reprocessing. Many patients experience significant change in PTSD after just a few sessions of EMDR.
Experiential therapy groups
In response to client feedback about the exceptional value of our psychodrama groups in the trauma services, Mirmont has integrated experiential psychodrama therapy into the larger clinical program. Experiential therapy groups are facilitated by specially-trained clinicians two to three times per week, providing every inpatient client with the opportunity to participate in experiential therapy. This unique aspect of our clinical program has been highly regarded by clients and distinguishes Mirmont from many other programs.
The Valor with Integrity Program for Emergency Responders (VIPER) is a nationally recognized program that provides a safe, supportive vehicle for recovery while addressing the unique issues of first responders in recovery. The VIPER program participants include: police, law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs, corrections officers, and military veterans.
Mirmont’s experiential trauma team
Mirmont’s director of Experiential Trauma Services, Dr.Scott Giacomucci, MSS, LCSW, CTTS, CET III, CP, PAT, is recognized as a Diplomate of the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress; a board-certified practitioner of sociometry, psychodrama, and group psychotherapy; an experiential therapy trainer/supervisor; a certified trauma treatment specialist; and an EMDRIA certified practitioner. Scott has presented internationally and received national awards/recognitions for his work.
Mirmont’s EMDR therapist, Sharon Gera, MSS, LCSW, CET II, is an EMDRIA-certified practitioner of EMDR and a certified experiential therapist with several hundred hours of training in trauma and psychodrama.
Darrell Briggs, BS, CADC, is a certified alcohol and drug counselor who has held various roles at Mirmont since his hire in 2003, including supporting experiential and trauma services. Darrell also serves on Main Line Health’s Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT).
Each member of our experiential trauma team has participated in hundreds of hours of training in experiential trauma therapy and psychodrama. Our clinicians have presented and/or published at the local, regional, national, and international arenas with the following publications making reference to our program:
Giacomucci, S. (in-press). The trauma survivor’s inner role atom: a clinical map for post-traumatic growth. The Journal of Psychodrama, Sociometry, and Group Psychotherapy (100th Anniversary edition). 66(1).
Giacomucci, S. Social Group Work in Action: A Sociometry, Psychodrama, and Experiential Trauma Group Therapy Curriculum [dissertation]. University of Pennsylvania; 2019. 124.
Giacomucci, S, Gera, S, Briggs, D, Bass, K. Experiential sociometry in the treatment of addiction and trauma. J Addict and Addictive Disord. 2018;5:17.
Giacomucci, S, Stone, A. Being in two places at once: renegotiating traumatic experience through the surplus reality of psychodrama. J of Soc Work with Groups. 2018.
Giacomucci, S. Social Work and Sociometry: An Integration of Theory and Clinical Practice. The Pennsylvania Social Worker. National Association of Social Workers, PA Chapter. Winter 2018.
Giacomucci, S. Social Work and Sociometry: Integrating History, Theory, and Practice. The Clinical Voice. Richboro, PA: Pennsylvania Society for Clinical Social Work. Winter 2018.
Giacomucci, S. The sociodrama of life or death: young adults and addiction treatment. J of Psychodrama, Sociometry, and Group Psychother. 2017;65(1):137-143.