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QUALITIES TO LOOK FOR IN A TRAUMA THERAPIST

  • When someone is working on very upsetting material, the therapist should provide access off hours outside of schedule time if indicated. This may be to walk someone through coping skills or to just listen and provide emotional support and validation. 
  • The therapist should not choose to avoid disturbing material because of their own unresolved issues or fear they cannot handle such material. Thus, a trauma therapist has to be free of personal issues and be fearless in the face of darkness. They must know how to work with toxic material and not be hurt by it.
  • The therapist should explain what will happen in the next session in the current session so to minimize surprises within the therapy. This reinforces safety. 
  • If you are missing time or cannot remember periods of time in your life, consider a therapist who has the abilities to work with you to break down dissociation if indicated. If you are missing time now you want to work with someone who can work with you to remit dissociation from continuing to happen. The therapist should be able to properly assess for dissociation.
  • Treating trauma, anxiety and depression should not exclusively be attending to symptoms but going after what is causing symptoms to manifest in addition to symptom management. A permanent remission of symptoms should be the ultimate goal of treatment so people can pursue attainment of their personal and life goals.
  • The therapist should be person centered. This means the person perusing treatment has a say in what their goals are and where treatment goes. This is empowering and empowerment is a vital part of trauma recovery. 
  • Anyone working in trauma should be compassionate. The idea of being emotionally removed as in psychoanalysis does not work in trauma therapy.  Therapist needs to encourage the experience of tolerating all feelings and normalize client experiences. The therapist should be empathic, be able to demonstrate feeling states and use compassion in doing healing work.
  • There are several specialized practices that require post graduate study to treat trauma. Some are more efficacious than others, some are good for some people but not for others. Some therapies do not consider dissociation or dissociated memories, some are better at breaking through dissociation. Such therapies include Trauma Focused CBT, Sensorimotor Therapy, Somatic Experiencing, Cognitive Processing Therapy, Narrative Processing Therapy, Brain Spotting, Trauma Focused Hypnotherapy and EMDR. There are others that are similar to methods listed but have different names. 
  • Regardless of approach, you want to know that there will be a preparation period where resources for coping and emotional regulation are established before getting into distressful past history. Mindfulness or awareness training should be part of preparation as we cannot work that which we are not aware and mindfulness is an effective coping skill. Trauma therapists should be well versed in mindfulness as well as in being able to teach these skills. 
  • Any method is a form of psychotherapy and methodology should not replace relationship. People seeking help with trauma often lack trust so establishing a trusting relationship is imperative. The therapist will be playing and important role in holding space for people to feel and express things they have been afraid to anywhere else or at any prior time. The therapist may temporarily represent a safe healthy parent when processing.  Likewise, the treatment setting should be safe and inviting.