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Over the past several years, the impacts of trauma and the interrelationships between trauma and women’s substance use have been well-identified by both research and clinical practice.

Recently, the Ontario Drug Treatment Funding Program Trauma and Substance Use project team released guidelines to support organizations that provide substance use treatment services for women. The guidelines are intended to help service providers understand the interconnections of trauma and substance use and to provide improved care for substance-involved women who have experienced trauma.

The guidelines identify six core principles for trauma‐informed practice: acknowledgment, safety, trustworthiness, choice and control, relational/collaborative approaches, and strengths-based empowerment.

The guidelines also take a look at trauma and its connection to mothering and family relationships. The authors comment:

“Substance-involved women who have experienced trauma may also be mothers, or be pregnant. Many have needs related to their mothering role when they seek help with their substance use concerns. For
these women, concerns about their children and their role as mothers can play a critical part in their recovery and be a powerful catalyst for change.

Hard data on substance use, mothering, and pregnancy are somewhat limited because many mothers fear negative or punitive consequences if they disclose their substance use concerns; however, research
indicates that up to 70% of women who attend substance use programs have children.

Although there are sensitive and caring mother-centered programs in Canada, “there are vast gaps in the availability and accessibility of these services, depending on the required level of care, parenting status,
and the severity of health and social problems.” “(p. 87)

Trauma Matters: Guidelines for trauma‐informed practices in women’s substance use services can be downloaded here as well as from the Jean Tweed Centre, the Evidence Exchange Network, and the Ontario Federation of Community Mental Health and Addiction Programs.

For more on women’s substance use and trauma, see Trauma-informed care for women in Canada (July 11, 2011).