Using the experience of a former opioid addict, participants in this discussion will consider what role trauma plays in the development of addiction. In particular, the relationship between mental health and substance abuse will be explored.

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Introduction: Initial Questions (15-20 Minutes)

  1. Introduce the participants to the subject of trauma. Ask the audience if they have any initial thoughts, questions, or concerns about the session. Use this as a time to help provide clarity for the audience.
  2. Give participants the following passage to read on their own. Allow 10 minutes to read (or watch) and write down thoughts and ideas.
  3. Ask the audience if they had any questions or concerns. Were there any initial thoughts or reactions? If so, provide a brief window for discussion.


Engagement: General Discussion (15-20 Minutes)

  1. Give participants a name tag. Instruct participants to write their names on their tags and wear them.
  2. Ask participants to pair off introduce themselves to someone else.  Then ask pairs to exchange their responses to the following questions or statement that solicits their opinion about an issue concerning the subject matter you are teaching. [Variation: If the facilitator prefers, these questions can just be posed to the entire group.]
    1. Is this your first time being introduced to “co-occurrence”? If not, can you share your knowledge of it with the group? If so, how has Schweitzer’s account informed you of the concept?
    2. How would you compare Schweitzer’s account of addiction and trauma with someone that you know? What similarities exist? What are the differences?
    3. What is the meaning of Schweitzer’s comment: “I worked the twelve steps and my life had gotten better, but there was still so much to be worked through”? How might trauma complicate the recovery process? How could treatment for addiction better address underlying mental health conditions or traumatic experiences?
    4. In your own words, what is the most important part of this passage? What can Schweitzer’s account teach us about the intersection of addiction and mental health? 
  3. Once participants have been introduced and shared ideas. Ask some of the group members to introduce their partner and what their answers were to some of the questions. This process relies on the participants ability to summarize the response of their partner. Then, ask the partner (or others in the group) if they agree or disagree with the stand of this person. Do this for a few rounds until each of the questions have been answered.


Conclusion: Wrap-Up and Next Steps (15 Minutes)

  1. Announce that 15-minutes remain for the session.
  2. Summarize the main points of the discussion. What were some of the key takeaways? Were there any differences in opinions? Any controversies? Were any major points about establishing place not addressed in the conversation? 
  3. Wrap up the session by speaking about the manuscript, additional resources, etc. Exchange contact information and continue further conversations if needed.


Reading: Excerpt from “Community and Vulnerability” by Brian Schweitzer

From childhood isolation, issues with my sexuality, and, more recently, being the recipient of sexual harassment from two top executives at the large employer that I was working for--I had a lot of unresolved trauma. The harassment actually began when I entered recovery in August 2010. So, this whole experience of still enduring trauma while entering recovery was rather profound to me. And all of this and more came out during treatment.

I worked the twelve steps and my life had gotten better, but there was still so much left to be worked through. I learned how deeply rooted trauma and addiction can be. In the substance use disorder field it is referred to as “co-occurring.” You have an individual who has substance use disorder, and is experiencing a mental health component as well.


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