Using Community to Heal From PTSD

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Social isolation increases the risk of relapse for people diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD). However, the symptoms of co-occurring disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often make it difficult to feel comfortable socializing. Some people avoid spending time around others to limit exposure to triggers or re-traumatization. According to Brain Sciences, "Social isolation seems to influence the predisposition, onset and outcome of PTSD." Pathways Recovery Center uses social engagement and evidence-based therapies to help clients heal from PTSD and SUD. Clinicians encourage healthy social interactions through group therapy and community activities.

The Relationship Between PTSD and Community Engagement

Community and social connections improve mental and physical health. Some people may develop maladaptive coping mechanisms or mental health disorders without those interactions. According to the Annual Review of Psychology, "There is accumulating evidence that phenomena such as social support, social cognition, and attachment organization contribute to emotion regulation under conditions of traumatic stress and, more particularly, contribute to risk for or protection against posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)." 

A lack of positive social connections increases the risk of developing PTSD in some populations, including: 

  • Veterans 
  • LGBTQIA+
  • First responders 
  • Minorities
  • People diagnosed with SUD 

Individuals who have experienced significant trauma or chronic stress during childhood or adulthood also have an increased risk of being diagnosed with co-occurring SUD and PTSD. Pathways Recovery Center meets clients where they are today and provides evidence-based care to help clients manage their co-occurring PTSD. Group therapy and other social interactions during treatment reduce the symptoms of PTSD and build self-confidence. Clinicians collaborate closely with clients to determine how to incorporate social interactions into their treatment plans. 

How Does Being Part of a Community Impact Recovery?

People feel more motivated and inspired to continue making positive lifestyle changes if they feel supported by a community. Becoming part of the recovery community offers many benefits, including social engagement, peer support, and increased accountability. People also tend to feel more comfortable sharing their stories and being open about their concerns in a community setting where they feel heard and respected. Many people recovering from SUD don't have strong community engagement before they begin treatment. Social isolation is a typical maladaptive behavior used to hide or disguise the misuse of substances. During treatment, people may struggle to replace self-isolating routines.

Being part of a community impacts recovery by doing the following: 

  • Increasing the development of essential social skills 
  • Ensuring people in recovery feel heard, valued, and understood 
  • Providing positive social connections 
  • Decreasing self-isolating behaviors and loneliness

Everyone deserves to have a voice and control over their own recovery. Communities allow people to share their experiences and learn from others. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), "Community engagement brings together the skills, knowledge, and experiences of diverse groups to create and/or implement solutions that work for all members of the community."

Support Groups and Group Therapy Help People Heal From PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD often make it uncomfortable for people to spend time in social settings. Physiological trauma responses, flashbacks, dissociative events, intrusive thoughts, and compulsive behaviors may cause some people to feel hesitant about joining a new social group. Treatment programs at Pathways Recovery Center reduce the risk of re-traumatization. To limit social stressors, clients practice social skills with peers and the care team. 

Support groups in treatment help clients heal from PTSD and other conditions by doing the following: 

  • Connecting them with people who understand their experiences 
  • Providing safe and controlled social interactions 
  • Ensuring people in treatment have a nonjudgmental space to practice coping skills 
  • Creating a welcoming community environment

Finding a Group to Help You Heal From PTSD

Some people have difficulty finding groups where they feel comfortable. Individuals identifying as LGBTQIA+, veterans, first responders, and others with a higher risk of PTSD benefit from joining inclusive groups with peers who understand their experiences. Case managers at Pathways Recovery Center help clients find local community groups. The treatment programs also provide built-in group engagement through group therapy and community events. 

A few other places people can discover community groups include: 

  • Local mental health newsletters 
  • Online forums and community websites 
  • Local clinics, doctors, or therapy offices 
  • County, city, or state resource centers and websites 

Community-based groups are helpful for people participating in intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) or other forms of outpatient treatment. However, there are some distinct differences between the quality and content of program group sessions and community-based group meetings. Clients can discuss the benefits with their care team to determine which type of group will provide them with the best support.

Attending Group Therapy at Pathways Recovery Center

Pathways Recovery Center uses group therapy to develop essential skills and create a welcoming environment for people in early recovery. Group sessions provide a space where clients share their stories and encourage others. Each group is tailored to the individual needs of those specific clients. The low clinician-to-client ratio at Pathways Recovery Center ensures more relevant group topics and discussions. 

Everyone has a voice in group sessions. Clinicians guide clients through making meaningful connections and increasing self-awareness. The trauma-informed approach to care helps clients with PTSD feel safer and more comfortable having honest discussions about treatment, recovery, and their journey. Clients can successfully heal from PTSD and SUD.

Community engagement helps people recovering from substance misuse and co-occurring PTSD remain motivated and inspired. Being surrounded by people with similar experiences or interests reduces anxiety and makes it easier for clients to form deep social connections. Many people in recovery need to find new social groups and activities to support their sober lifestyle. Pathways Recovery Center uses group therapy and community activities to encourage peer bonding during early recovery. Social support is essential to establishing healthy new behaviors and routines for individuals with PTSD. Clients are encouraged to join community and recovery self-help groups to increase accountability and social support. To learn more about our services and programs, call us today at (888) 771-0966.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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