It is hard to make it through life without experiencing some kind of trauma. Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes, often described as small t and big T. Small traumas can be less impactful, like a scrape from a fall or a rejection from a desired other. Big T’s leave more of an impact, like a car accident or childhood abuse and neglect. Sometimes, we can cope with the trauma, and other times, the trauma can become a lifelong issue. The psychological impact of trauma can hold one captive and limit the possibilities to live life to one’s full potential.
Trauma brings a variety of consequences, such as PTSD, drug abuse, depression, and dissociative effects (moments when your body feels checked out or numb) (Allan Schore, PsychAlive, 2014). The body and mind are responding to the lived experience of overwhelm. Trauma-relieving therapy can help reset how your body responds to living life presently, relieve stress from life, and get a fresh light for living life forward. Professional and experienced Trauma therapists can help you escape such interfering situations and live your life more fully.
In this article, we will explain how to choose a trauma therapist when you are seeking trauma treatment.
What Makes a Therapist Good? – What to Look for in A Trauma Therapist
There are many types of trauma therapists and therapies, and it can be challenging to find one who has the right kind of experience and ability to work with all levels of trauma, especially treating CPTSD (Complex post-traumatic stress disorder). Trauma psychology or therapy is a highly specialized area of psychology, so it is important to seek treatment from a trained and experienced professional. Knowing what qualities a therapist should possess is the key to finding the perfect therapist for you. A good therapist should have the following qualities.
Their Willingness to Validate You is Contagious.
A trauma therapist must first acknowledge and accept clients’ experiences of trauma and their emotions and provide validation. A therapist can only support the client to the depth that they can tolerate the intense emotions that arise during therapeutic trauma work.
Additionally, you want a therapist who believes their client can change, grow, and improve. You need to know that your therapist believes in you and assures you that together, you can experience relief and healing. Since clients may not believe these things about themselves, these statements are essential.
Aims to Gain an Understanding of the Context
The client and the therapist come from different backgrounds. When working with a client, an effective therapist strives to put their own biases aside to support the client’s lived experience and understanding of the world. A really good therapist helps you feel that they do all they can to provide a space where you, your belief system, background, thoughts, and desires are a valuable part of you and your life experience.
The therapist should be proficient in conceptualizing your situation through the understanding of the impacts of trauma. Additionally, the therapist needs to have a proper understanding of your individual needs or issues. They should know what how it’s like to be in a trauma state. For a therapist to properly deal with your trauma, they must have experience navigating the various causes and healing solutions for your particular issue.
Has a Proper Understanding of Trauma Work
However, working with trauma requires more than just listening to a client’s story. Trauma work requires delicately reshaping the clients’ neurobiological (brain) and physiological (body) (Allan Schore, PsychAlive, 2014) response to the client’s internal and external environment. Trauma work requires the therapist to experience the trauma space together, using the therapist’s regulated nervous system to reset the client’s nervous system. This takes place while working together, regardless of the modality used.
A proper trauma therapist will understand this requirement, how trauma work will impact themselves and the client, and effective and individually tailored ways to maneuver with the client through their unique healing process. A patient sharing a life experience does not even begin to cover what is involved in understanding trauma, knowing how it impacts the individual, and how to effectively treat trauma.
Acknowledging that they do not Possess all Knowledge.
An excellent therapist can say, “I’m not sure; let’s explore it further,” or “I’m not sure; I have not come across this particular situation, but we can work together on this.”
Additionally, a therapist who is comfortable and secure enough to admit they need further knowledge or support when necessary ensures you are going to be well taken care of. Many therapists believe they should know everything about their client’s symptoms or cases. That is unrealistic, and it is better to have a therapist who feels confident in their skills to be on the healing journey with you as you work together to reset the levels of reactivity in your body.
While you will have many opportunities to discuss topics together in a session, you will remain the expert on your life history, and sometimes, even a mental health professional will need to take a step back and become more knowledgeable about your particular challenges
Empathy and Compassion should be Apparent.
Every therapist has their own unique style. Choosing one who has compassion for you and your history is essential. You want to sit with someone who is going to provide a space for you, your pain and suffering. You need to feel like that person is going to be supportive regardless of what they may feel, learn, or experience in that space with you.
As you begin therapy, it may not be the best fit with a professional who discourages you from speaking out against loved ones or who pressures you to forgive and move on. This is why consultations are so valuable. You get to first ‘try on’ your therapist to see if the therapist is someone who is a good fit for you.
Trained in a Trauma-Sensitive Setting
Trauma-focused training typically involves extended internships, practicums, or supervised practice. At a consultation, you can ask your therapist what kind of training they have received and their level of confidence in working with trauma clients.
You can also inquire about the therapist’s experience treating trauma. Providing comprehensive and accurate trauma therapy can only be achieved by trauma therapists with the right training and experience.
It is recommended that the therapist is trained in at least one, but ideally more, evidence-based trauma treatments that prove effective for trauma work with a trained professional.
Therapist Specializes in Trauma Therapy.
In other words, they market their skills specifically as a trauma practitioner. If you are looking for a trauma therapist, but meet with someone that advertises that they work with perinatal health most likely will not help your trauma. You want a clinic or therapist that advertises a focus on trauma and PTSD.
A lack of focus on trauma often indicates a lack of experience treating trauma, a lack of passion for treating trauma, or an acknowledgment that they are less proficient in treating trauma since most of their training and clinical work has been in the field where they market themselves and their practice (e.g., ADHD, autism, couples, eating disorders).
Make sure You go to a Legitimate Trauma Therapist.
The definition: a trauma therapist is a licensed mental health professional who has been explicitly trained and supervised and has experience working directly with trauma.
An experienced trauma therapist hasn’t worked with one or two patients. You want to work with someone who has the proper training and experience working with people dealing specifically with trauma.
Interview your Therapist
Interviewing the therapist beforehand or during the first session is a good idea to determine whether it will fit.
The therapist may not be able to provide the level of care you need if they are unwilling or too busy to share some of their thoughts ahead of time. You should look elsewhere if the therapist is too guarded, withholds information, or gets defensive when asking for information.
Pick a therapist that adequately answers your questions, leaving you calm and hopeful.
How do trauma therapists differ from regular therapists?
Trauma therapists are specially trained in how to treat trauma and can help people overcome traumatic events without re-traumatizing them. Non-trauma-trained therapists are not prepared for the intensity and needs that come with doing trauma therapy.
What are the qualities of a trauma therapist?
The qualities of a trauma therapist include compassion, empathy, respect, support, and self-awareness. To foster healing and recovery, these attributes are necessary for engaging in trauma-informed care and building strong relationships with survivors.
Choosing a trauma-informed therapist is key to getting the best results since they must be trained in how to find trauma victims, as well as what types of trauma they can treat. Help is available, which is perhaps the most important thing to know. Trauma therapy can be a life-changing experience if a past event is preventing you from living your fullest life.
Boomerang Counselling Centre has therapists trained in dealing with trauma. If you are interested in exploring the possibility of trauma therapy, book a free consultation and start your journey towards hope and healing.
PsychAlive. (2014, May 8). Dr. Allan Schore on the physiological impact of dissociation. [Youtube].https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0ln9PLQ7lQ
PsychAlive. (2014, May 13). Dr. Allan Schore on therapeutic alliance and emotional communication, right brain to right brain. [Youtube]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fI9fxZRtjdU