The importance of choosing a Trauma – informed therapist

The importance of choosing a Trauma โ€“ informed therapist

Whenever a person chooses to enter into therapy, it’s usually a big decision on their part, no matter their reasons.

Trauma therapy

We all know something about the stigma attached to therapy and mental health in general, and because of this – attempting to find a therapist in the first place is often a daunting experience.

In addition to all this, there are so many different therapies and programs to choose from, such as:

Trauma-informed care (TIC)

Trauma-informed care (TIC) is a crucial concept used to describe the many ways in which a therapist serves their patients.

Trauma history

A trauma therapist is trained in many aspects of trauma therapy and is well-informed of the complexities that traumatic events bring to specific client groups.

Mental health specialists integrate their knowledge of trauma into every aspect of trauma therapy and treatment – and any therapist or organization claiming to be ‘trauma-informed must make emotional and psychological safety a priority.

Behavioural health services

For trauma survivors new to the therapeutic process, finding the correct type of trauma therapist can be confusing.

Some people may find themselves scrolling through endless behavioural health services directories, asking themselves (unanswerable) questions such as: 

What kind of therapy do I need? What type of therapist should I consider? Do I even need treatment?

All these questions are unanswerable since it takes a therapist to answer them!

Approach

One of the best ways to seek the correct type of therapist is to ask yourself why you think you need therapy and drill down from there. Some questions to consider might be:

  • Are you a recovering substance abuse addict?
  • Do you have a history of abuse and mental health problems?
  • Are you struggling to deal with the impact of trauma?
  • Are you experiencing intense anxiety, depression and stress symptoms?

Treatment plan

All these questions will determine what type of therapy to consider.

For example, if you are concerned about past traumatic events, you would perhaps benefit from a form of trauma therapy.

Substance abuse

On the other hand, if you are struggling with drug addiction and substance abuse, an addiction specialist’s treatment program will be more beneficial to healing than other therapy forms.

Why is it important for therapists to be Trauma-informed?

There are many reasons why trauma-informed care (TIC) is crucial for providing proper care, particularly for treating trauma survivors.

Trauma recovery

Emotional trauma alters how a person perceives their world and the people who occupy it.

Since trauma survivors usually experience difficulty when it comes to regulating their emotions, thoughts and feelings – their trauma history must get incorporated into the treatment they receive.

How it works

A trauma therapist understands that the mind and body operate differently, especially in abuse and mental health cases and where unhealed trauma is evident.

Within trauma, a person may get triggered easily and experience high-intensity emotions (hyper-arousal), but, on the other hand, they may shut down entirely and numb out (hypo-arousal).

Trauma therapists use all the tools and skills they have to promote healing whilst preventing re-traumatization and further impacting hyper and hypo-arousal.

Trauma specialists core principles

According to SAMHSA (the substance abuse and mental health services association), treatment programs and therapists offering trauma-informed care must prioritize the following six principles:

  • Safety
  • Transparency and trustworthiness
  • Peer group support
  • Mutuality and collaboration
  • Voice, choice and empowerment
  • Cultural, historical, and gender issues

What is trauma-informed counselling?

Trauma-informed care or TIC takes a holistic approach to therapy; in addition to this, trauma-informed care seeks to incorporate a deeper awareness of trauma, all of which gets based on an individual’s life experiences and relationships.

Treatment approaches

When it comes to treatment, trauma therapists seek to acknowledge the role that trauma plays on an individual’s life and the profound impact that unhealed trauma bestows on a person’s outlook, perception, and overall life experiences.

Those who take a trauma-informed approach comprehend that trauma is prevalent even in people who do not assume that their psychological issues are trauma-related.

Coping skills

Like some therapies, trauma-informed therapists and clinicians use specific treatment strategies that include looking at a person’s behaviour and examining the underlying causes of such conduct, including the use of unhelpful coping skills.

Trauma experience redefined

When someone has experienced traumatic stress as a child, such as parental divorce or witnessed domestic abuse, they may not consider their life experiences traumatizing.

Although the person’s behaviour says it all, they may frequently find themselves in emotional crisis, take up addictions such as substance abuse, and hop from one toxic relationship to the other, all in an attempt to deal with the impact of trauma.

Treatment strategies; a healing process

Mental health providers who take a TIC (trauma-informed care) approach focus on several key areas that seek to resolve unhealed trauma. These key areas include:

  • Concentrating on the feelings, beliefs and attitudes of clients to do the necessary repair work
  • Promoting long-lasting change and recovery by working with clients on the deepest level to understand their trauma and what may be causing any unhelpful behaviours
  • Focusing on the underlying cause of negative behaviours arising from traumatic stress and addressing any unhelpful coping skills (such as addiction)

The trauma-informed approach applies to everyone.

Most people believe that adverse childhood experiences such as sexual abuse or physical abuse are the main reasons people seek trauma-informed therapy. However, this is not the case.

Mental health counsellors explain that trauma-related events also originate from a variety of other life experiences, including:

  • The death of a close loved one
  • Divorce
  • Being the victim of domestic abuse (or witnessing domestic abuse as a child)
  • Suffering from poor health
  • Being an attack victim
  • Dealing with a crisis or witnessing a shocking event

Risk groups

Trauma-informed care also applies to those with a history of depression and anxiety. 

These conditions may have caused intense emotional stress combined with unpleasant symptoms, all of which may have compromised an individual’s sense of safety and purpose.

Is a trauma-informed approach necessary?

Many professionals and mental health providers will attest to the importance of trauma-informed care.

Trauma Healing Journey at CFHH

Healing journey

The ability to recognize the role that traumatic experiences play in a person’s life is crucial when treating the toxic elements associated with traumatic stress.

When we recognize the nature of trauma and its impact – we make space for healing and recovery. Trauma-informed care gets built on a platform that encourages compassion and safety for all.

TIC inspires courage, hope, strength and healing – all of which allows people to make the necessary changes to their lives and work towards their unique healing journey.

What should people look out for when seeking a Trauma-informed therapist?

Research shows that there are many opportunities to spot a good therapist, including a trauma-informed therapist.

Find a therapist

Since there is no ‘trauma-informed therapist’ directory, it’s imperative that people seeking a trauma therapist know what factors to consider.

According to data, people seeking help for trauma from a trauma-informed therapist should pay special attention to how a therapist lists their experience and credentials on their website.

People must also listen attentively to how a therapist communicates over the telephone – are they actively listening to your needs and requirements?

They work as partners.

Other ways to tell whether a therapist is trauma-informed or takes a trauma-informed approach include:

  • They seek to understand your coping skills, personality, how you survived your traumatic experiences, and offer opportunities to move forward and build healthy coping mechanisms for the future
  • A genuine trauma-informed therapist talks about safety at the outset; he or she will talk about physical and emotional safety and will create a safe environment to promote healing and recovery
  • They work at a pace that you are happy and comfortable with; they will also communicate at every stage of the process and work within your capacity and tolerance levels
  • They encourage self-care, boundaries, resourcing and grounding

Statistics

In the United States, demographic factors surrounding the prevalence of trauma have shown that more than half of the American population experience trauma.  Also, the rates of emotional and mental trauma are 10 per cent higher in men than women.

All this suggests the importance of a trauma-informed approach to therapy and the many ways in which traumatic stress gets addressed by mental health professionals who provide trauma-informed care.

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