We’ve covered a lot this month in understanding how trauma presents itself in our lives.  Maybe something you heard or read resonated with you in a way that, frankly, is a little scary, and you’re wondering what do I do with this.  Please know you are not alone.  We’ve all had those moments where even the idea of taking another breath seems too difficult.  But you can and you will.

Some may think that trauma and healing don’t have much in common.  Yet, just as a pebble thrown into a still body of water creates ripple after ripple so do the effects of trauma and so do the effects of healing.  When we do the hard work in facing the things we’ve been running from, we become legacy changers.  The hope of this month’s blog series is to help provide a safe place to begin having conversations around what isn’t working in life, and ask yourself is it time to work on something?

To begin the journey of understanding your story you’ll want to find a therapist that you trust.  The therapeutic relationship is important in the process of healing.  You are hiring someone to work with you.  I often tell my clients that the space we share as we journey in their story is sacred, and I treat it as such.  My hope for you is you find a therapist that believes this as well.  No doubt, the process can be daunting and “we often seek a counselor in times of desperation, which can cloud our judgment”. (Kehler, 2011) Please know this is one area where you don’t want to settle.

How to find a therapist

To help in this process of finding a therapist we are going to take a look at some criteria adapted from an article by Byron Kehler, MS called “Choosing a Therapist”.

  • Qualifications: There are varying degrees of educations and disciplines in the field of mental health. Take the time to research what it is you think you need and ask around for referrals.  Remember all personality styles may not “click”, so look for someone with whom you feel comfortable.
  • Experience: Experience may be one of the best assurances of competence. It is okay to ask questions of a potential therapist to see how much experience they have had concerning recovery issues. Have they taken clients, successfully, from beginning to end of the recovery journey? Do they exhibit comfort and confidence in their familiarity with recovery issues?  Recognizing the counselor as your employee hired to lead you from one psychological place to another is valuable in planning the selection process.
  • Safety: Personal and emotional safety is a prime ingredient in effective therapy. Notice what they do to foster your safety.  Are they sensitive to your needs both spoken and unspoken? Does their office environment suggest safety?  Are they professional?
  • Philosophy: What is their philosophy of therapy and treatment? How do they see their role in the process; can they describe or articulate that?  This relationship is often long-term, certainly influential, and even intimate in regard to the type of personal information revealed, how will they handle this?
  • Boundaries: The relationship between client and therapist is a protected one. If we’ve experienced a severe violation of boundaries; the need for clear therapeutic boundaries to foster safety is essential.  Is this therapist clear regarding the importance of boundaries to safety?  Do they explain therapy practices, limits, guidelines, expectations, emergencies, finances, and other practical matters?  Do they seem sensitive to issues of confidentiality relating to self-disclosure, and your own information?  The therapy relationship is a professional one and should not include socializing, bartering, blurring of roles, or conflicts of interest.
  • Active-Responsive: Do you feel as though the therapist really hears you?  Do they respond directly to your questions and concerns? Do they appear attentive, or easily distracted, during the course of the session?
  • Faith: How does the therapist’s own faith impact their therapeutic approach, philosophy, and practice?  Are they comfortable discussing faith related issues?  How would they describe their belief system?  How important is the issue of faith to you in your healing process?
  • Personal Health: Do they appear healthy and balanced? Does their lifestyle reflect balance, stability, self-understanding, and adequate personal recovery?  Are they relatively free from pronounced insecurities, fears, control issues, and defensiveness?  Do they limit their own self-disclosure, and focus on your needs rather than their own?  Remember, a therapist can only take you to where they have arrived themselves.
  • Summary: Start with the phone and friends. Often you can get some of your general questions answered over the phone in a few minutes at no cost, to help identify those you may actually want to meet.  When interviewing them in person, identify why you are there (shopping for a therapist) and ask your questions.  You can take notes if you like to later reflect on their answers.  Don’t be afraid to meet with more than one therapist to compare.  If they are uncomfortable with your process of selection and evaluation, then keep looking.  Don’t get frustrated if some counselors are busy and difficult to get in to see.  If they are busy, there probably is a good reason.  They may be worth waiting for.  Above all, trust your intuition.  Don’t expect to immediately trust your therapist or the therapy process.  That takes time.  Keep asking questions and evaluating progress.

As we close this series, I want to thank you for reading.  Please know you are thought of and prayed for.  Remember that the human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed.  It simply wants to be witnessed exactly how it is.  And that is what we find when we embrace Yes/And thinking.  We begin to reach out, ask for help, and invite God into this epic story that continues to be written.

Next Steps:

What are your thoughts? Comment below

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The Mental Health Academy is here to take the mystery away, and give you the knowledge and the tools you need to have relationships that last! No more confusion or wondering how you’ll face the roller coaster of life with mental illness.

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