Background: Research evidence points to the high prevalence of trauma exposure and
post traumatic stress among addicted individuals, their families and the professionals responsible for
Objective: The purpose of this review is to enhance understanding of the continuing effects of
trauma and its impact on the lives of people with addiction problems as well as on the professionals
who strive to provide support and care for them.
Method: Review of twenty eight articles on traumatic experiences in individuals and families facing
addiction problems as well as on traumatic stress in addiction professionals. Eligibility criteria were:
publication in a peer-reviewed journal dating from 1990 to present; articles written in the English
language; quantitative or qualitative design aiming to explore the lived experience of trauma and the
recovery process from it.
Results: It is argued that for service providers to be able to help patients restore purpose and meaning
in the recovery process, it is important to be aware of the trauma dynamics implicated in the long
history of the addiction problems. Professionals’ difficulty to process their emotions may lead to
disengagement or overinvolvement and the adoption of maladaptive roles. Strong and unexpected
emotional reactions in the professional may be a clue to the presence of masked trauma.
Conclusion: Ongoing training on trauma dynamics, self-care and clinical supervision may deepen
professionals’ understanding of the impact of trauma on their work culture and protect them from
the risk of secondary traumatic stress.