Choosing a Counselor or Psychotherapist
If your journey includes healing from the effects of psychological or physical trauma, you will likely need to work with a psychotherapist as part of your healing process. Healing from trauma is not a solo, DIY journey. Getting professional support, coaching and guidance is a crucial component in the process of healing from trauma. So how do you find this supporter/guide/coach? I hope the following thoughts help you in your search.
A successful client-therapist relationship requires that several attributes are present in both the therapist and the relationship. First, and in my mind, foremost, the therapist needs to have done significant work to heal themselves. It can be very helpful if their own healing was significantly aided by receiving the type of therapy with which they will support you. This is a bit tricky to assess in a therapist, because it would be unethical for them to discuss with you their past issues and how they recovered from them. However, you can inquire as to their training, their breadth and length of experience with the approaches they use, and whether they have personally benefitted from those therapies or approaches.
You will want a therapist who will work hard to understand your unique experience and what you uniquely need. If you hear hints that a therapist believes they have the perfect approach for you, or that their approach is better than all the others, be wary. There is no therapist out there who is trained in and has experienced all the available approaches, so he or she would have no credible basis to make that assessment.
You will want a therapist who is open to being affected by and learning from you. This is a sign of an open mind, a sign of wisdom, and a sign of awareness that they know they don’t know everything. No therapist has truly “seen it all” and if they think they have, then they have closed themselves to further growth and learning.
Safety and trust are critical components of a good therapeutic relationship. This is especially critical for survivors who were abused by people close to them. Do not feel guilty about concerns you may have about a new therapist. You want to listen to how you feel when you meet them. Does the therapist seem to be comfortable with who they are? Do they seem to be comfortable with and accepting of you? Do you feel safe and trusting with them?
There is no single “silver bullet” therapy modality or healing approach for survivors of trauma. And, there aren’t any therapists that are trained and experienced in all of the approaches that are supportive of healing from trauma. Which means you may need to see more than one therapist along your healing journey, in order to address all the impacts of the trauma you have experienced. Your job is to stay on the journey, but make course corrections as needed.