In Part I of this series, we covered common myths and misconceptions that are often associated with the treatment of trauma. It is equally important to know how to find a therapist who is appropriately trained to treat trauma and to know what good trauma therapy is supposed to look like.
Know the Different Types of Treatment and How They Work
There are different ways of treating trauma. It is important to know what each method involves and how successful each is in relieving trauma symptoms. Do research to learn more about various forms of treatment, and select peer-reviewed studies from reliable sources to verify the success rate of each.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is the most effective modality in my experience, as it seemingly provides the most relief in the shortest period of time. But just because that is my experience does not mean that EMDR is the modality for you. I encourage people to do research for themselves. Other treatment modalities include trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, narrative therapy, and exposure therapy.
You can start with a search on a reliable website (such as GoodTherapy.org) in order to learn about different treatments and what they entail. Doing a Google search can also bring up research and information, but beware that not all sources will be reliable. Look at studies published by scholarly journals. Look up the governing and certifying bodies for each type of treatment to get additional information.
Know What to Look for in a Therapist
Looking for and finding a good therapist can be confusing and challenging. There are therapists out there who claim that they can treat any issue under the sun. The fact is that going to graduate school may prepare a therapist to start providing mental health services, but there are some issues that require additional training. Trauma treatment is one of the challenges for which therapists should have extensive training and supervision. A therapist who has not completed the additional training necessary can cause harm without knowing that he or she is doing so.
When looking for a trauma therapist, you should ask what kind of training the therapist has had and through which institution(s) the training came. For example, a therapist who is trained in EMDR should have been trained through either the EMDR Institute or through EMDR humanitarian assistance programs. If the trauma is complex, it may be beneficial to find a therapist who is additionally certified through EMDRIA, the certification body for EMDR.
Make sure that whichever modality you choose, the therapist you see has the appropriate training to provide the services he or she says can be provided.
Schedule a Consultation and Ask Questions
Once you find a modality you think might work for you and find a therapist who is trained and/or certified in that area, call and ask if you can have a consultation to see if the therapist would be a good fit. Many therapists offer a 10- or 15-minute consultation for this purpose. This can be done in person or, typically, over the phone. It gives you a chance to present what you would like to work on and gives the therapist a chance to assess whether he or she would be a good fit for you. A good therapist is never opposed to referring a client that he or she is not able to appropriately treat.
What Good Trauma Therapy Should Include
Once you engage in the therapeutic relationship, make sure that the following things are happening to ensure that you are getting the best care possible. Good trauma therapy always includes:
- Safety, meaning the therapy room and the therapist you are working with feel safe to bring up trauma-related issues
- A therapist who is open to feedback and flexibility in adjusting the treatment plan and goals according to how you are feeling
- Research-based education about trauma and why trauma symptoms occur after a traumatic event
- Coping skills and tools to use between sessions
- A plan for what to do and who to contact if trauma symptoms resurface or worsen between sessions
What Good Trauma Therapy Should Not Include
Watch out for these red flags:
- An environment and relationship with the therapist that does not feel safe
- A therapist who is not willing to alter the treatment plan
- Concerns and questions not being answered or taken seriously
- Lack of education and skills about trauma and how to cope between sessions
- A therapist who is not open to sharing information about his or her credentials and training
It has been my experience that with the right therapist and type of therapy, trauma symptoms can be eliminated. Therapy works and is extremely beneficial. Knowing what to look for can make a huge difference in having a good experience with trauma therapy.
For more about what good therapy should look like, click here.
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