P1030743While anyone can say they do trauma therapy, what “trauma therapist” should indicate is additional training and supervision related to treating trauma.  If you’re seeing a trauma therapist, they should be able to tell you about their experience and training related to trauma work.

I’ve actually met therapists who claim that they can treat trauma but who:

  • have never had any training on trauma and can’t name any of the basic trauma symptoms
  • have compelled clients they just met to give a narrative of their trauma (I hear about this from too many clients who were completely flooded and traumatized by that)
  • were surprised when their client described a flashback as re-living the event
  • have never heard of a trauma narrative
  • thought that telling his personal trauma narrative in the second session of near-assault he experienced was a good way to build rapport with his client

I don’t share these examples to scare anyone, but to emphasize why it is so important for clinicians to get proper training, because we can do a lot of damage. It’s also why I want to empower future clients to really interview their potential clinicians.

Questions to ask

What sort of training have you received?

Your therapist should be able to describe at least a few trainings that were trauma-specific.

Examples of good answers :

  • I’m EMDR-certified, and EMDR is an evidence-based practice for treating PTSD
  • I have attended over 100 hours of trainings on working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
  • I belong to multiple international trauma-expert groups and regularly attend workshops and read the latest research on trauma

Examples of bad answers:

  • I’m a licensed clinician and trauma is one of many mental health conditions that clinicians treat
  • I’m trained in CBT, which is used for general anxiety conditions, and trauma is an anxiety condition
  • I believe in using my instincts

What sort of experience do you have working with cases like mine?

I feel like this one is a little different, since unlike training, you can’t get experience before actually seeing clients.  And since I’ve always worked in agencies that serve people of any income (and don’t pay a lot of money), so this usually means less experienced clinicians are treating less affluent clients.  I don’t think that people without money deserver lower quality care, and an inexperienced clinician doesn’t have to mean a bad one.

With pride, I argue that my graduate students do better trauma therapy than some licensed clinicians I’ve known (see above).  I’ve also had the pleasure of collaborating with other young professionals at other agencies and psychiatric hospitals who are clearly well informed, conscientious and competent clinicians. But how do you know if yours is one of those??

Ask about their training (see above) and supervision.  If they are still a student or are relatively new to trauma work, they should be getting weekly supervision.  Also, anyone without a clinical license has to be supervised by someone licensed. My students get 2.5 hours of supervision a week and we talk about every single case every single week.  So if they don’t know the best answer, response or intervention in session, they will by the next one.  It’s not the same, but almost all of their clients are making observable progress, and the evaluations from the clients that have completed their work are extremely positive, and that speaks to the quality of care they are getting.

Good answers to this question:

  • I have been working with individuals with complex trauma for several years now
  • I have had several trainings on trauma and am closely supervised by a very experienced, licensed clinician.

Bad answers:

  • I work with a very diverse population, and no two cases are alike
  • I work with all types of cases

Soon, I’ll have another post with more questions!


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