My last installment of this PTSD series looked at what I have learned about health care professionals in general and their knowledge or lack of knowledge about PTSD. Today I want to look at what I have learned about really talented therapists. Many of you have been to therapists with no results or, not the results and healing that you are seeking. My hope is that this post will help in some way. Don’t give up! You can find a competent therapist to be your partner during your healing journey. Remember, your therapist works for you. He or she is an indispensable part of your healing, but you are the boss. Many medicines are used to treat PTSD. Antidepressants (Prozac), benzodiazepines (Valium), and mood stabilizers (Lamotrigine) are all used by doctors in their treatment of PTSD. Medicine is only one tool that can be used to help treat PTSD. However, psychotherapy especially EMDR is the most effective treatment for many if not most PTSD sufferers. If you are not familiar with what EMDR is you can read this.
When choosing a therapist for PTSD I would like to make the following suggestions:
- Select a therapist that specializes in PTSD. Many therapists will list in their profile that they treat PTSD and trauma. This may be true but finding one who does PTSD and EMDR as the majority of their practice is what you are looking for. At one point in my journey I went to a therapist and during my intake, she stopped me and said she didn’t have enough experience to treat me. She had PTSD and trauma listed as her specialties. PTSD and EMDR treatment require more than a simple cursory understanding of the disorder. Dr. Frank Ochberg is a pioneer in the treatment and causes of PTSD. He is a rare mix of academic excellence, incredible warmth and compassion as well as the ability to help lay people understand the complexities of PTSD. You can find many of his videos here.
- Select a therapist that you feel you can trust. Sometimes, it is hard to know how you feel about a therapist because intake appointments are usually not enough time to form an opinion. Use your gut feeling. If the therapist seems rushed or perturbed with your desire to find out about their practice and experience than you can fire them. Think of your initial appointment as an interview. Ask questions of the therapist, read reviews online, talk to former or current patients. Schedule another appointment if you need to get a better feel of them. Due diligence pays off.
- Select a therapist that you can’t bull sh*t or intimidate. The fact of the matter is PTSD treatment involves visiting past traumatic events and trusting your therapist to push you and guide you when needed is essential. A good therapist will work with you as memeber of your team. Remember the treatment of PTSD is a difficult endeavor. A good therapist will encourage you to be honest and brave in a compassionate and winsome manner. I went to many therapists until I found one that was a good fit for me and my needs. A good therapist also has to have your permission to push back a little when it is called for. Again, experience and compassion are what you are looking for.