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Putting the ‘ARC’ in ‘Cathartic’: Attachment, Regulation & Competency

Putting the "ARC" in "Cathartic": Attachment, Regulation & Competency
Addiction Recovery Strategies

What does ARC mean?


  • ARC Model

  • Types of Trauma

  • Long-Term Effects

  • ARC Principles

At the heart of our evidence-based treatment modality is an understanding that our clients may have underlying trauma that needs attention. Individual trauma can result from a singular event, multiple or ongoing events, or circumstances that may have caused physical, mental, or emotional distress.

Traumatic situations can leave lasting impressions on the mind and body and interfere with normal daily functions. We approach trauma during treatment by utilizing the attachment, regulation, and competency (ARC) model.

What Is ARC?

The ARC model is a component-based set of principles that addresses vulnerabilities in healthy development following trauma. The model recognizes the significance of processing traumatic memory and experience and emphasizes trauma’s effects on developmental attachment, regulation, and competency.

ARC treatment focuses on the general discrepancies and complexities in trauma-experienced human development. The goal is to enhance resiliency in ongoing life processes despite the encountered trauma.


There are three types of trauma:

  1. Acute trauma stems from a singular, isolated incident. For example, someone who has been in a car accident or experienced a violent situation may suffer from acute trauma.
  2. Chronic trauma involves a series of repeated events that someone experiences regularly. Common instances of chronic trauma may include physical, social, or emotional abuse that’s taken place over time.
  3. Complex trauma references diverse or numerous traumatic events that are often of an offensive, individual nature that occurs on an interpersonal level. Like chronic trauma, complex trauma can be repeated and bypasses a single experience. However, complex trauma tends to align with childhood distress that inevitably affects the person’s development.

Long-Term Effects of Trauma

Enduring exposure to trauma, especially chronic and complex trauma, may lead to long-term physiological or psychological effects. Some of the ways that trauma can affect the individual include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dissociation
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of suicide/self-harm
  • Flashbacks
  • Loss of sense of self
  • Low self-esteem
  • Problems thinking/concentrating
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Sexual challenges

Trauma becomes apparent in persons with substance use disorders (SUDs). People may turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with trauma and its negative side effects. The longer trauma goes untreated, the likelihood of substance use as an unhealthy coping mechanism increases.

Attachment Principle

“Attachment” traces the lasting impact the relationship may have had on identity, emotional regulation, agency, and early understanding of the self and others. Attachment treatment concentrates on establishing healthy attachments between traumatized clients and their caregivers. The goal of attachment is defined by four guiding principles within the given model:

  1. Creating structure through routine and the predictability of the environment
  2.  Growing caregiver capabilities to manage client behavior and emotions
  3.  Fostering the attachment between client and caregiver to promote appropriate responses to client conduct
  4.  Utilizing positive reinforcement to encourage the client’s ability to recognize character proficiencies instead of shortfalls

Positive attachment systems should provide feelings of safety and security within the client, which can help develop skills associated with attention, behavior, and control over one’s emotions.

Regulation Principle

“Self-regulation” is founded on the disconnection between the client, their traumatic experience, and behavior that stems from the trauma. The regulation principles help identify trauma exposure in relation to the client’s general perception of the world around them and how they act based on early experiences. The client-trauma relationship reveals possible biases from the traumatic event that influence a client’s ability to self-regulate.

The treatment framework under self-regulation identifies three primary skills to address the complexities of traumatized clients:

  1. Affect knowledge skills: accurately identifying one’s own emotions to connect those feelings to personal experiences that highlight the appropriate use of emotion within a given context
  2. Affect expression skills: carefully conveying and communicating emotional experiences
  3. Affect modulation skills: the capacity to distinguish and adapt to changes in emotional experiences to return to a normalized state

Self-regulation skills may depend on identifying possible triggers in relation to client trauma. Understanding client history creates an awareness of how clients may react to certain situations.

Competency Principle

The ARC principles are rounded out by “competency,” extending to cognitive, emotional, intrapersonal, and interpersonal developments. “Competency” objectives and intervention focus on building interrupted developmental skills and providing resources that encourage resiliency. The goals are accomplished through four general principles:

1. Generating opportunities that allow clients to gain control of their environment
2. Establishing connections between the client and their community
3. Identifying and expanding on client strengths to support a positive self-image
4. Teaching clients to assess outcomes to gain a greater sense of self-efficacy and control

Personalized assessment can expose possible underlying issues that contribute to client trauma, which can assist in the creation of an ARC treatment plan.

Don't let your addiction define you

Attachment, regulation, and competency lend insight into the mind of the trauma-experienced client. ARC-based treatment plans consist of individually tailored approaches to client trauma and treatment. Trauma exposure influences worldview and can leave a lasting impact if left untreated. At Vanity Wellness Center, we lead with an empathetic and patient approach that will ease you into recovery. Our ARC framework will help us analyze any possible trauma you may be experiencing and highlight the best way to encourage and support you during treatment. We want you to be able to build safe and healthy attachments and become more resilient in your daily activities. You don’t have to let your past trauma define you. Learn how to be in control of your life again. If you or a loved one is experiencing trauma, perhaps ARC treatment is the right option. To learn more about the ARC treatments, call (866) 587-1737.

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