How to choose a therapist for trauma and PTSD

Posted on 10/09/19 02:22:pm How to choose a therapist for trauma and PTSD

 

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For treatment to be successful, you need a certain level of trust with your therapist. But apart from just reading a bio, how do you find someone that’s a good fit for you? Rogers’ Chad Wetterneck, PhD, clinical supervisor, has suggestions for how to research and choose a therapist for trauma and PTSD.

Look for someone who uses evidence-based treatment

Finding someone who practices evidence-based treatment is crucial when searching for a new therapist, according to Dr. Wetterneck. When exploring treatment options for trauma, he suggests choosing someone who uses one of the three most empirically supported treatments for PTSD—prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

“Is your physical or mental health worth the risk of trying a treatment that is unproven and unstudied, except for testimonials of those who claim it works?” he asks.

If browsing profiles or bios, Dr. Wetterneck says it’s important to pay attention to the number of specialties that are claimed by the therapist. “If they list numerous specialties, they likely have a broad knowledge of different treatment techniques, but it’s less likely that they have enough experience to offer you the specialized trauma therapy you need.”

When starting your search for an outpatient provider, Dr. Wetterneck recommends utilizing the Find a Clinician tool from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies or using Psychology Today’s search function to look for outpatient therapists who practice prolonged exposure therapy.

Interview your therapist

As part of your search, Dr. Wetterneck says that patients should try to interview their therapist to see if it will be a good fit—either beforehand or during the first session.

“If a therapist isn’t willing or is too busy to share some of their thoughts ahead of time to ensure you are a good match, then you may not be able to expect the level of care that’s needed,” Dr. Wetterneck says.

  • During this interview, try to ask a variety of key questions, including:
  • What techniques do you use to treat trauma?
  • What does a typical session look like?
  • What is your background in treating PTSD?
  • How much of your practice involves treating PTSD?
  • When will both of us know when to move to a new part of treatment?
  • Do you feel that you’ve been effective at treating PTSD and trauma in the past?

“If the therapist is too guarded, withholds information, or becomes angry at your requests for information, you should probably look elsewhere,” Dr. Wetterneck says. “The therapist should appreciate how important a decision this is for you and be able to address your concerns. Besides the therapist’s specialized training, your professional relationship with them is the next most important part of making sure you will come out of the experience with fewer symptoms and more able to engage in your life.”

When is a higher level of care needed for trauma and PTSD?

Most people are able to benefit from a standard once-a-week therapy session. However, the 167 hours in between each appointment can also lead to a lot of avoidance, difficulty in following therapeutic homework, and distress from not addressing symptoms quickly or safely enough.

“If you find yourself working with a therapist for 10 or more sessions and there isn’t evidence of addressing the symptoms or seeing gains in your life outside of therapy, it might be time to consider a higher level of care,” Dr. Wetterneck says.

Rogers offers Trauma Recovery at several locations and levels of care, including intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization, and our new residential program in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

Call 800-767-4411 or go to rogersbh.org to request a free screening.