How to find the right therapist for PTSD recovery
Your experience of PTSD or C-PTSD is personal to you. From its causes, to the way it impacts your daily life, right through to the best way to achieve sustainable recovery.
For some people, treatment and alleviation of symptoms may be one that blends different approaches and technique. NICE guidance recommends the use of trauma focused psychological treatments for PTSD in adults, specifically the use of Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) and trauma focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
It’s important too, where possible, to find the right therapist or practitioner.
Can I choose my PTSD therapist?
If you’re engaging with therapy via the NHS, then you may be limited to the providers recommended in your local area. Your GP or local mental health team can refer you to specialists or guide you to the ones who provide self-referral appointments.
Armed with information about PTSD treatment options from this website, you can discuss what you think will work for you, and ask your GP to refer you to someone who can match that, if possible.
NHS waiting lists for free therapy are long. Seeking private treatment for PTSD speeds things up and opens up wider choices of treatments and therapists.
How do I find the right therapist for me?
Beyond credentials and experience, it’s important to find a PTSD therapist who makes you feel comfortable and safe, so there is no additional fear or anxiety about the treatment itself – this will set you on the path to recovery that is focused, appropriate and geared toward the sensitive issues that are unique to PTSD healing.
Is this someone you feel is empathetic, interested and supportive? Do you feel safe in their presence? Do you feel able to talk freely? You should feel connection and compassion from them, not pity! Do you feel seen, heard, respected and understood? Do they interrupt you, or listen carefully to what you’re saying? Do they invalidate your concerns, or brush them off?
Our founder describes how she found her EMDR therapist, “I knew my first therapist wasn’t right for me when I first met her. At our first appointment, I didn’t cry once, even when talking about my trauma… I just didn’t feel comfortable in her presence – she didn’t make me feel safe to ‘open up’ freely. The appointment was in her home, which I would normally feel to be quite comforting, but I felt at the time, I needed something more clinical, more organised, and safer. The next therapist I saw was perfect – she made me feel at ease, was empathetic and her offices were just right for me.”
Also, it’s important that the therapist gives you a clear pattern of appointments and that they are punctual and well organised. If you feel ‘disconnected’ and overlooked it can undermine your programme of recovery.
Before choosing your therapist, you may wish to ask them some questions, and many will offer a ‘getting to know you’ session. Here are some questions you might want to ask:
- What area of mental health did you qualify in, and to what level?
- How experienced are you in the field of PTSD?
- Which techniques do you specialise in or recommend?
- What is the therapy environment you use?
- Do you provide online PTSD support?
- Have you got testimonials or statistics that show how effective your methods are?
- Can I have an initial meeting with you, to make sure I feel safe and comfortable?
- Do you offer a trial period of sessions?
- What self-management techniques do you recommend and teach?
- How often do you recommend we meet and how many appointments do you feel will be necessary?
Above all, it’s important to find a therapist who is specifically trauma-trained: PTSD treatment and recovery is a complex process that is best undertaken under the direction of someone who truly understands the science behind the symptoms of PTSD and C-PTSD, plus the most important components of healing. Look for a psychologist or therapist who holds qualifications in trauma treatment and approach methods that are documented for PTSD.
“By vetting a potential therapist by asking the right questions and recognising the good qualities of a therapist, you can have a good experience in your healing journey.
Do your research. It is vital to conduct research on any prospective therapist and to familiarise yourself with the types of psychotherapy that are out there. That way, when the therapist you are vetting states, they offer a certain type of therapy, you’ll immediately know what they are speaking about.
Do not rule out teletherapy (therapy over the phone or video call) simply because it seems too new or odd. There are some excellent therapists who treat PTSD and C-PTSD through teletherapy.
Above all else, keep advocating for yourself. Push for what you need and don’t settle for less. If you are uncomfortable with the therapist you have chosen, change therapists. It may take several therapists before you find the right one. Be persistent, and you will prevail.” state the CPTSD Foundation.
What if I can’t do this research?
Finding the right PTSD treatment options takes time and choosing the right therapist can feel overwhelming. Please don’t give up.
One option is to ask a family member or friend to gather relevant information. (They can use this guide to create a shortlist of PTSD therapists.)
Then, you only have to decide from a small list they provide you, which one of the selections to work with on a trial basis.
What happens if you have a personality clash with a PTSD therapist?
You may need to find an alternative provider, however, keep in mind that some therapies (and therefore some therapists) will challenge you and take you to painful points. This may be a necessary part of your treatment. Try to separate out your feelings about the process and your PTSD, from your views about your therapist.
Availability of online therapy for PTSD
Some professionals in this field offer either therapy sessions online, or a combination of in-person and internet-based support.
If you feel that being in your own home and having therapy via technology would be most effective, then that help is available and may open up access to PTSD therapists UK wide.
Also, there are resources online to help you self-manage PTSD or to do things every day to enhance your therapy sessions.
Be open to the idea of treatment
Connecting with the right provider starts with having an open mind that treatment can make a difference. You can read some cases studies for successful treatment of PTSD here.
It’s easy to slip into misconceptions about therapy. For example, concern that ‘digging into’ topics you don’t want to discuss will worsen your symptoms. Or that it’s just someone repeatedly saying “Tell me how that makes you feel.”
Therapies for PTSD have come a long way in recent times. Not least because organisations like ours champion research, professional understanding and development of enhanced techniques!
Set aside any embarrassment and pride
If this is your first time engaging in mental health treatments, you may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable to be talking to someone about deeply personal things. It can be a matter of pride, not wanting to open up to strangers, or even admit you have a problem.
The Mental Health Foundation reports that one in eight adults in the UK receives psychological intervention at some point in their lives, including medication and therapeutic support or a combination of both.
The number of people seeking therapy and counselling is growing. The impact of the pandemic is likely to accelerate that even further.
Please know that you are far from alone.
A good place to start looking for accredited EMDR practitioners is the EMDR Association: emdrassociation.org.uk/find-a-therapist/
and for CBT you can look for therapists accredited by BACP here: bacp.co.uk/about-therapy/how-to-find-a-therapist/
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash
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Treatments for PTSD
It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.