Choosing a PTSD Psychotherapist: Your 5 Step Guide to “Professional Help”

When traumatic things happen, your mind and body react.

Sometimes you’re the victim. Sometimes you’re a witness. And sometimes a particularly disturbing experience can fester inside you.

Afterward, you may find you live in a tense, on guard condition… in a constant state of fight or flight.

When trauma claims your nervous system and won’t let go, we give it a name: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

It’s at this point that you may contemplate “professional help,” or a  PTSD psychotherapist.

Someone may suggest it. Or you may simply realize that you’re not getting better on your own.

However, you decided to seek help, congratulations.

You sense the truth: PTSD rarely goes away on it’s own, but you can do something to find relief.

There is no shame or blame in that.  It’s simply time to get healthy.

So, what does “professional help” look like?

For PTSD sufferers, therapy is an excellent first step. You need a supportive person, expertly trained and dedicated to seeing you through effective treatment and lasting recovery. Where trauma seemed to have robbed you of so much, you now have the opportunity to seek out a relationship with a PTSD psychotherapist that is both trustworthy and therapeutic.

How do you choose such a person? Consider the following:

A  5 Step Guide to Seeking “Professional Help”

1. Credentials and Compassion Count

You want a compassionate and knowledgeable guide through this journey. As you narrow your therapist search, learn what you can about their qualifications and response to you as a person.

Here are some things to keep in mind regarding therapy credentials:

  • Do they have solid references from recovering clients?
  • Do they have special areas of practice?
  • How often do they treat PTSD?
  • Are they actively aware of what’s new and developing in PTSD treatment?
  • What kinds of PTSD treatments do they prefer? Why?

The idea is to seek out someone whose expertise and therapeutic environment you trust with your story.

If you sense your therapist is not a good fit for you over time, it’s okay to look for another person to work with. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find just the right working relationship.

2. Unbiased Matter

All in all, professional help should positively influence the changes you want to make. Choose a PTSD psychotherapist who is willing to help you do the following:

  • Develop your understanding of PTSD, its symptoms, triggers, and negative effects on your life
  • Increase your ability to develop healthy coping skills
  • Challenge and correct unproductive thinking and physical responses
  • Teach methods that will promote stress management and resilience
  • Assist you in finding personal meaning as you look to the future

3. Holistic Help Heals

You want to be sure your therapist is invested in dealing with your PTSD on a physiological level.

Your therapist should place a high value on addressing somatic, or bodily, symptoms as well mental and or emotional ones. A body-centered approach can help you pay attention to your body, an important aspect of understanding what is a real threat and what is past trauma.

Studies show that focusing on the interdependence of the body and mind is integral to healing. Choose a  PTSD psychotherapist who creates techniques that help you resolve the persistent mental and bodily reactions that keep you bound to your traumatic experience.

4. Relationship Building is Key

When searching for a therapist, choose someone who you can trust and with whom you can build a rapport that can help you improve relationships outside of therapy. At a pace that is safe and nurturing, your therapist can use sessions to help you learn to relate to people again.

In therapy, insight regarding the consequences of unproductive personal relationships can be explored safely. Choose a therapist who expresses a desire to help you improve your communication and relationship skills inside and outside of your sessions.

5. An Open Mind Makes a Difference

Choose a PTSD psychotherapist who recognizes your need for safety and offers treatment flexibility. There is more than one way to heal trauma. Reliving your trauma verbally may not be the best way to ensure recovery.

Discuss therapies that allow you to release stress without having to talk about it. Sometimes, you simply need to feel safe and accepted. Or perhaps you’ll heal best through increased awareness of thought patterns or emotions that keep you stuck in past trauma.

Your traumatic experience is unique, choose a therapist who is open to following your specific cues and will not force you to do anything you are not comfortable with.

Taking the First Step

You may find choosing a PTSD psychotherapist to be a challenge at first. After all, vulnerability and trust are casualties of PTSD. It’s okay to feel the way you do. Though, you needn’t continue suffering the stress on your own.

PTSD recovery requires support and courageous commitment. But you can do this. Start out slow. Progress will happen. And in the end, it will be worth all the work.

If you would like some extra support and are looking for a psychotherapist, please contact me here for a free 30-minute consultation to learn about how I can be of service. 

To find out more about my services click here: PTSD Treatment

About The Author

April Lyons, MA, LPC is a somatic psychotherapist and currently owns a private practice in Boulder, CO. She specializes in PTSD, eating disorders and child counseling. April is trained in TRAUMA INFORMED CARE and is certified as a Eating Disorder Intuitive Therapist. To find out more about April click herePsychotherapy Boulder.

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