Trauma Informed Therapy & Therapists: It Matters.

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Trauma informed care isn’t a specific therapy technique, it’s a philosophy, or a way of practice.  I’ve noticed the words “trauma informed” being thrown around with increased frequency like “narcissism” and these trends make me nervous.  Being trained in trauma informed care (TIC) means that your therapist is aware of the potential for trauma to be an indicator for your mental health symptoms. For example, if you are showing symptoms of major depression and not gaining relief, it’s important that your therapist inquire about your trauma history and assess it’s potential for impact on your symptoms.  Thereafter, a trauma informed therapist must be able to utilize the skills to support you in a safe, compassionate, experienced way.  While many therapists may have personal experience with trauma, they must be trained in a way to have worked through their own stuff enough to attend to yours with as little bias as possible. 

Other Ways to Know ifYour Therapist is Trauma Informed

You feel empowered and treated with compassion.

Working through trauma and it’s effects is a collaborative effort. While no session or clinician is perfect, your therapist should be mindful of how much to push you to digest your trauma and when to back off.  Do no harm is a tenant of this work, and if you offer any inclination that you feel overly triggered or unsafe, your therapist should immediately back off and offer support.  Also, if your therapist has an agenda for your session and you’d like to take your time in a different direction, they should be open to your leadership. 

Your therapist is able to provide proficient psychoeducation.

Does your therapist offer varied strategies and modalities when talking through your trauma? Far differently than even the most compassionate friend, your therapist should be able to provide an objective backbone for your work.  I often tell people straight off, sometimes I’ll start sessions with psychoeducation, think mini psychology class, and sometimes I’ll ask you to take the lead.  Although psychoeducation can sometimes come across as a bit of a lecture,  the academic knowledge behind how to address trauma can be incredibly empowering.  

Your therapist helps you strengthen self efficacy.

One of the main goals of trauma healing is to return to a state of remembering your capacity to take control of your own life.  Trauma often results in victims feeling passive, yet through meeting achievable goals and working through problem solving in therapy, individuals can take on a more active stance in their healing journey. 

Your therapist focuses on acknowledging and building your strengths.

Strength based therapy is a major component of trauma informed therapy.  Folks will sometimes come to me with “do you think I have PTSD,” “do you think I have Bipolar?”  While diagnosis’ can be helpful in terms of psychopharmacology and some psychological treatment, I try to stay on the conservative side of diagnosing anybody.  Certainly, I avoid it as long as I can until we’ve assessed for trauma and other factors.  You are more than your symptoms and likely a brave, resilient soul. 

A trauma informed therapist points out the benefits of all coping strategies.

While many coping strategies, like excessive drinking, often become maladaptive, it’s important to recognize their patient’s attempts at self soothing.  I often say to people: “alcohol is a very useful tool, until it isn’t…”  In therapy, the hope is to offer strategies that may be more adaptive, while not vilifying people’s attempts to find their own. 

Your therapist supports you in building relationships outside of therapy.

While this can be annoying, a great, trauma informed, therapist will compel you to build on existent or new safe relationships.  By encouraging participation with community, friends, family, and other support people, trauma informed therapists ensure that they will not be your only source of outside strength.  Building a strong foundation for support can also compliment trauma healing in major ways.  Think of the parallel between moving through social anxiety and feeling in control of one’s one being. 

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