3 Tips for Choosing the Right PTSD Professional

December 11, 2014 Michele Rosenthal

Recently, I’ve spoken to two survivors who are just discovering (after years of invested time and work) that their therapists are not equipped to work with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This breaks my heart to hear. You’re struggling enough to cope through the day without being stuck in a treatment approach that can’t help you reach your recovery goals as quickly as possible. But the two stories I recently heard don’t surprise me. In fact, it was my story too.

The Right PTSD Professionals Will Have Trauma Training

I started therapy with a terrific psychologist who helped me find a way to feel safer in my head, less in pain in my body and more hopeful about getting better. For a few years, he was my lifeline. Then, instead of getting better, I started getting worse. The more we talked about my trauma and tried to resolve it, the more symptomatic I became.

This happens to many survivors: Talking and talking and talking about trauma can, itself, be retraumatizing.

When I saw myself falling apart with worsened emotional and physical symptoms I finally started doing some research and asking questions. Bottomline: my therapist really didn’t know how to handle PTSD. It was time for me to leave and find a trauma trained therapist. With her help, I learned what I needed to know about PTSD recovery. From there I went on to develop a program that uniquely fit me (more alternative processes than traditional approaches) and achieved my 100% successful recovery.

Working with the Right PTSD Professional is Critical

PTSD treatment is best undertaking with the most qualified PTSD professional you can find. Here are 3 tips on choosing the right PTSD professional.Working with the right people is critical in PTSD healing. Both of the survivors with whom I recently spoke were in therapy with people who “work with a lot of survivors.” But when I asked about the specific details of trauma training, it turns out, neither practitioner had any. Just working with a lot of survivors and/or trauma doesn’t mean a practitioner is any good at it, nor that he or she is truly equipped to guide a survivor to freedom.

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, plus the most important components of healing.

How to Choose the Right PTSD Professional

It’s up to you to do your due diligence. That is, do your research. Even in the confines of health insurance networks, you can read up and ask a lot of questions. Some tips for finding a good match for your process include:

  • Connect with a professional who is specifically trauma-trained. Look for a psychologist, therapist, counselor, etc., who holds certifications in trauma treatment and approach methods that are documented. This can also include traditional programs incorporated into trauma treatment (such as dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, etc.) and alternative processes (such as emotional freedom technique, thought field therapy, hypnosis, or neuro-linguistic programming).
  • Choose a practitioner who specializes in something related to your originating trauma, such as sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence. (Or, as close to your experience as you can get.) The more experience a professional has in working with your general circumstances the more effectively he or she will be able to guide, navigate and demystify your process.
  • Interview, interview, interview. You are a consumer; the professionals are offering a service. You wouldn’t buy a new computer, for example, without researching what it offers and asking a tech expert to explain its virtues. The same goes for therapy. You have the right to ask questions and receive answers that makes sense and feel good to you. Anyone unwilling to have such a discussion should be dismissed. Make a list of questions that matter to you (regarding training, work history, success with PTSD clients, etc.) and ask them so that you establish a feeling of safety and control prior to beginning your work together.

It is entirely possible to heal PTSD. No one can do it alone. Every single one of us needs support, professional input and the willingness to explore and discover our unique path to feeling better. The more often we do this with people who are truly trained to help us the more often and more quickly every single one of us might access healing outcomes that lead to a life you can live rather than just cope through.

Connect with Michele on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and her blog. Michele is the author of Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices to Reclaim Your Identity.

APA Reference
Rosenthal, M. (2014, December 11). 3 Tips for Choosing the Right PTSD Professional, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 24 from

Author: Michele Rosenthal

April, 19 2015 at 5:37 am

I wasted a lot of money on counsellors. Talking did nothing to help really. Didn't touch the trauma. Can be re-traumatising.That counsellor actually had a masters degree in trauma but didn't help me at all. I wasted a huge amount of money. He said emdr might be good for me but wouldn't tell me how I could get it. I was getting the counselling for £25 so I suppose he thought he'd do the least amount of work as I got a reduction in fees. The last counsellor said he didn't have any training for PTSD. It also depends on finances. The therapies listed are expensive. I can only got 16 sessions on NHS but c.a.t is far more helpful to me than just talking about what's happened to me. In fact in counselling he just kept on saying everything is OK. Being postive when I wanted to change my thinking and work on problems. But they have the view you are just putting yourself down. Constant reassurance doesn't change things. In fact it glosses over things that need to be worked on. The analytical way was right for me but I was just ignored by NHS so never got the right advice until a decade later. They just leave traumatised people and expect you to get by without treatment.

December, 14 2014 at 7:03 pm

So good thoughts here, but how on earth do you list techniques like NLP, EFT, TFT and leave off a therapy like EMDR???

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
December, 24 2014 at 9:53 am

Shawna, the list that included EFT, etc., is a list of alternative techniques. Technically speaking, EMDR is not alternative. It is considered a part of the traditional cluster of treatments since it is an evidence-based technique. I have interviewed Dr. Francine Shapiro, EMDR founder, and this classification is how she herself describes it. In fact, she prefers EMDR not be included in any list of alternative practices.

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