What to look for in a counselor
Look for a therapist who:
1. Is trained to meet your needs
Mental Health Professionals working with trauma survivors are generally licensed professionals who have specific trauma training to meet your needs. Licensed mental health practitioners include those with the following credentials (plus others): LISW, LCPC, LPCC, LSCW, PhD, and M.D. Look for credentials and licensing that entitle the professional to work with mental health difficulties in a skilled manner. Practitioners who are licensed with a regulatory body have established themselves within their profession. If you encounter any difficulty with those helping you then you will have a professional association to contact.
2. Helps you to feel comfortable
A trained professional trauma therapist should have the skill to create an inviting, safe environment for your work together. Although the counselor needs to help you work on real issues it is important that they are aware of pacing this work in a way that leaves you feeling comfortable and accepted.
3. Does not pressure you to book an appointment with them right away
When making a big decision like starting therapy you need to know that it feels right and this is a decision best made without pressure. The counselor might have some suggestions for other therapists if you are looking for other therapy approaches that they don’t offer or for hours that are more convenient to you.
4. Have a brief phone conversation before booking
A brief conversation can help you connect with the counselor to get a sense of whether this professional has a manner that you feel comfortable with. Creating a therapeutic relationship is an important part of therapy and this must feel possible for you with the professional you are working with. Even a short conversation can help you get a sense of fit with the counselor.
5. Broad skill set to fit to your needs
Choose a professional with broad training so they are able to fit the best intervention to your needs. Not all approaches work with every individual. So even if you heard from a friend, family member or colleague that you have to try EMDR, it does not mean that it will work well for you or even be the best approach for your needs. A good trauma counsellor will be able to determine what is the best intervention for you given your presentation.
6. Appears to be comfortable with themselves and in their work
Choosing a trauma therapist who is comfortable in themselves and with their work means choosing someone who can offer you services without being distracted by their own emotional or personal difficulties. Choose to work with an individual who can focus on you and your needs in this moment. Signs of anxiety, depression, agitation, anger, irritability, or arrogance should be a warning sign for you to choose another therapist.
7. Has a policy for unexpected meetings in public places
Every seasoned therapist has met up with clients in public places and has a policy for such encounters. Protecting your confidentiality is of utmost importance and this means that the Mental Health professional is likely to choose not to approach or address you personally in public places. This is for your privacy only and not to be taken personally. Approaching you might mean that you feel obligated to introduce them to friends or family who are not aware that you are seeing a therapist, or that a social outing is interrupted by reminders of your trauma therapy.
8. Office policy statements are provided at the first session
Policies include limits of confidentiality, your rights as a client, and the practitioner’s scope of practice. If you are not provided with a copy once you have read and signed it then you will be able to get one by asking for it.
9. Presenting your story and symptoms in your own time
Those having received a previous diagnosis need to recognize that it may not be the correct diagnosis. If you have met with a Mental Health Professional prior to your current therapist you need to start from the beginning as it is possible that your previous diagnosis is not correct, especially if you were not recovering with treatment. You will want to take your time to explain all your symptoms and struggles so that your current therapist is fully informed and can make an accurate assessment of your needs and condition.
10. Provides a connected and engaged interaction
You should feel that the therapist is interested in what you have to say, responds to statements or inquiries and remains engaged throughout the therapy session. Therapeutic dialogue can prove to be the most healing aspect of the counseling sessions.
11. Has set appropriate boundaries
Although you may come to like and trust your therapist it would not be appropriate to engage in an intimate relationship, lead to business ventures, or result in contact that leaves you feeling uncomfortable.
12. Treats you in a respectful and balanced manner
In therapy you share so much of yourself that feels personal and private. It is essential to feel respected and never belittled, demeaned or treated in a condescending manner. Your counselor is here to help you, not judge you or put you down. The therapist is not better than you are, they are just a guide in this part of your healing journey.
13. Choose someone who is a competent professional within the trauma care field
You are engaging in an important and potentially life-changing activity by beginning trauma therapy. Choose someone who can expertly guide you with a skilled, knowledgeable approach while you face what may be your most challenging issues. You need to chose someone who has received training with a focus on trauma care and is able to bear witness to your experiences in a non-judgmental and skilled manner.
14. Is open to your feedback about the therapy process
Saying what you think and feel is part of the therapy process. Trauma counseling can be very rewarding but also quite difficult at times and you may need to give your therapist feedback when things do not seem to be progressing as you would like or if you felt upset by what happened in the session or how the therapist dealt with something. Providing this information may enhance your experience and increase your sense of safety and personal growth.
15. Helps you reconnect with normal activities in daily living
Therapy is really about getting back into your life and those activities that you found meaningful prior to trauma. If you have new ideas about healthy life choices you need to spend time reflecting on how to engage in these activities as well.