There are thousands of therapists in the United States and, unless you live in a rural area, many for you to choose from. Yet, finding a therapist that is a good fit, especially one who treats complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), can be a daunting task.
Asking questions and vetting a therapist for your healing journey requires you to ask many questions. Knowing what qualities to search for in a therapist is also vital. This article will seek to answer some of the questions on how to look for and obtain a therapist who treats CPTSD.
Vetting a Prospective Therapist
Therapists who treat complex post-traumatic stress disorder are rare, but there are many therapists out there who are willing to learn and should not be discounted. How can you tell if a therapist either treats CPTSD or is willing to learn? You ask the right questions and accept their answers. In this way, you can vet a therapist to see if they are a good fit.
Below is a list of questions to ask adapted from a piece written by Annie Hope Lucario taken from her website Healing from Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD.
Ask the prospective therapist how many clients they have treated for CPTSD.
Hopefully, the therapist will answer that they have treated at least one client. However, if they answer no, that need not be a deal-breaker. Ask them if they are willing to work with you to heal from complex post-traumatic stress disorder. If they say they do treat it, then move on.
Ask the therapist you are interviewing if they know the differences between trauma and complex trauma.
The therapist needs to understand well these differences between trauma, caused by a one-time event, and complex trauma, caused by repeated traumatization. The therapist needs to be aware, in a deep sense, of the unique needs of someone who is treated for complex post-traumatic stress disorder. If they answer no, move on.
Ask the prospective therapist what they will do if they realize you need more treatment than they can offer?
By asking this question, you can better get a feeling for how they understand what you might need. The answer should be that the therapist would refer you to a mental health professional who can help you. They should also state they do not drop patients or offer no referral services should they feel inadequate in treating you.
If the therapist states they can treat all situations and all clients, this is a red flag of someone to not become involved with because of their lack of self-insight. A therapist who treats patients who are out of the realm of their training and experience is harmful to someone with complex trauma.
Ask your prospective therapist how often they offer appointments.
The frequency and length of appointments the therapist offers are essential information to know. If you feel you need weekly, but the therapist cannot provide that to you, then it’s time to seek out a different therapist.
Ask your prospective therapist how they handle your treatment should they need to go on leave or is sick.
Because the therapist will be treating complex trauma, there must be a continuation in their services even if they cannot be present. Leaving you without alternative treatment can be dangerous to your health and greatly hinder your healing. The therapist you are questioning should have another therapist available for when they cannot be present for treatment and your emergency needs.
Ask the therapist if they understand about dissociation.
Dissociation is a common symptom of CPTSD survivors. By asking this question, you can gauge if they have the knowledge they need to recognize and treat dissociation. Their answer will also tell you if they are capable of managing a client who is dissociated.
Ask your potential therapist how long they believe it will take to heal from complex trauma.
If they answer two years at most, then there are two reasons not to hire this therapist. One, either they are not experienced enough or too assured of themselves, and that can lead to a host of problems. Two, they are saying what they think you want to hear, and this is a clear sign they might not be open and honest with you in your treatment.
Ask your prospective therapist if they believe you will heal.
You can tell from the first moment you sit down in a therapist’s office if they believe you will heal. You can tell by their body language and how they speak to you. Point blank, ask them if they harbor any thoughts that you will remain a patient forever or if they feel you are a hopeless case. You will be capable of telling immediately if they do or they don’t.
The Qualities of a Good Therapist
Not all therapists are created the same, and finding one that has experience treating CPTSD is difficult. However, half the battle of finding an excellent fit for you with a therapist is knowing what qualities one should have to be successful. Here are a set of qualities that would make an excellent therapist.
They are Willing to Validate You. Validation doesn’t just mean the therapist accepts and acknowledges the emotions and feelings of their client. It also says that the therapist believes in the ability of their client to grow, change, and get better. The therapist needs to tell you that they believe you and reassure you that you will heal. These statements are vital, as the client may lack the ability to believe these things about themselves.
Tries to Understand the World from Which Client Emerged. There can be many differences in the upbringing of both clients and Therapists. Some are obvious, such as religion and minority; others are less obvious such as sexual orientation and family of origin dysfunctions. A great therapist will seek to lay aside their own biases to work well with their client. A good example would be if the therapist was brought up as a Catholic and has a client who is an avowed Atheist. The therapist will not change themselves into an Atheist, but they will not try to push their religious beliefs onto their client either. The therapist always has the right to refuse to treat a client if they feel they cannot be objective.
Does Not Feel Superior to You. There are a lot of ways that humans can feel superior to others, such as intelligence, financial affluence, and the fact that they have their health. A great therapist does not hold such views. They will never look down on you because you are of lower intelligence, poor, or because they live with a mental illness. They treat all clients with respect and dignity.
They Have a Deep Self-Knowledge. Great therapists have a deep and honest understanding of themselves. This self-knowledge doesn’t mean they do not have blind spots, but for the most part, they are willing to challenge their opinions and ideas. Many have undergone Psychotherapy themselves as a part of their training to help them see themselves in the right light. Like all humans, they will still have some prejudices and fears, but they willing to acknowledge them when they rear their ugly heads and face them honestly head-on.
Sets Clear Boundaries. Boundaries are vital to the emotional survival of a Therapist and for the successful recovery of the client. A boundary is a limit set to keep oneself from being manipulated or violated. Manipulation may involve telling a Therapist a lie to win favor.
A violation might be going to the therapist’s home uninvited. The therapist needs to be upfront and honest about what they will and will not accept from their clients in terms of behavior. If they will not tolerate being lied to, then the therapist needs to express this to their client in clear and concise language. If the therapist does not wish their client to visit their home, they need to say so, and if necessary, repeat this requirement as many times as deemed necessary. The client needs always to respect these boundaries. They are vital to successful recovery because therapists are only human. They need their personal space and time not to be interrupted as much as is humanly possible. They need time to recoup after a week of listening to the problems of others.
Would Never Allow a Sexual Relationship to Form. It is unethical for a therapist and a client to form a sexual relationship during or after the therapeutic alliance has been established. Because of transference, it isn’t surprising that some people may become sexually attracted to the person who is helping them. In any other type of relationship, this can be a healthy bond, but in a therapeutic setting, these intense emotions can be extremely detrimental to the healing of the client and the objectivity of the therapist. Not only is this true, but the licensing board which regulates a therapist’s ability to practice frowns very heavily on this type of activity. In other words, a therapist who acts on his or her romantic feelings towards a client can lose their license to practice. It cannot be stressed enough that a sexual relationship between a therapist and their client cannot and should not exist.
Practice Confidentiality. Confidentiality is the cornerstone of psychotherapy and one of the essential terms of which clients sometimes have little understanding. It is vital to know your rights and how confidentiality works to protect yourself and to reassure yourself that your therapist will maintain your privacy. It is only with confidentiality that a client can feel free to tell their therapist the secrets that bind them from being able to move on with their lives. Without this privacy, healing would not be possible.
An important rule many clients do not understand is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA). This rule protects most “individually identifiable health information” held or transmitted by a covered provider or their business associates.
This information may be in any form, electronic, paper, or oral. This act was passed into law in the United States by congress to protect the privacy of health information. With this critical law, a client’s data, whether it be something written down, posted to a website or verbal, cannot be given or transmitted without the express permission of the client.
Even in the case of an insurance company billing for services, the only information that is necessary, such as a diagnosis code, may be shared. In other words, anything said or done in the confidence of a therapist’s presence is protected by law. This protection gives the client a lot of assurance and opens the door for meaningful and healing dialogue.
There are myths about confidentiality that are perpetuated by television programs and movies that simply are not true. One of the most prevalent is that everyone who offers psychotherapy services is bound by rules protecting confidentiality.
This is incorrect.
Some service providers, such as life coaches, are not regulated enough and are therefore not bound by the regulations that have been set up to protect the client’s privacy.
Another myth is that a licensed professional can never tell anyone information shared during a therapeutic session.
This, too, is incorrect.
Under certain circumstances, a Therapist may indeed share information they have learned in their office from a client, but only if the life of that client or someone else is endangered. They may also have to share information as a mandated reporter if a child, the elderly, or a disabled person is suspected of being abused. If a court of law subpoenas them, they may have to testify about what they have learned during sessions with a client, but it takes unusual circumstances for them to have done so.
As can be seen, the client’s rights are strictly regulated. If a person believes their rights have been violated, they have the privilege and the right to report such abuses to the licensing service of their therapist. They may also have grounds for a lawsuit.
In-Person Therapy vs. Teletherapy
When searching for a therapist who treats complex post-traumatic stress disorder, do not discount the possibility of therapy done virtually. Just as there are pros and cons to choosing a therapist, there are also advantages and disadvantages to teletherapy.
There are five advantages of getting therapy via teletherapy include:
- If you live with agoraphobia, you will not need to leave your home
- If you feel uneasy seeing a therapist face to face
- The therapist is too distant to travel to their office
- You have a severe physical disability that impedes going to their office
- You cannot afford in-person psychotherapy, and online therapy is cheaper
There are four disadvantages to online therapy.
- You and the therapist will not be capable of gauging each other via body language
- It is more difficult to establish trust, especially since you are being treated for CPTSD
- The HIPPA laws guaranteeing confidentiality may be circumvented because online anything is not 100% secure
- If there is a technical problem, such as an internet disruption or your computer having problems, you can be left without therapy for a while
Weighing the pros and cons is vital, but do not be afraid to try teletherapy if you cannot find someone in your area who treats complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
Seeking a therapist who treats CPTSD need not be a fruitless and arduous process.
By vetting a potential therapist by asking the right questions and recognizing 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 familiarize 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 simply because it seems too new or odd. There are some excellent therapists out there who treat CPTSD who treat them 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.
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” Helen Keller
“Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.” — Tori Amos
“Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you — all of the expectations, all of the beliefs — and becoming who you are.” — Rachel Naomi Remen
If you a survivor or someone who loves a survivor and cannot find a therapist who treats complex post-traumatic stress disorder, please, contact CPTSD Foundation. We have a staff of volunteers who have been compiling a list of providers who treat CPTSD. They would be happy to give you more ideas for where to look for and find a therapist that will help you.
Are you a therapist who treats CPTSD? Please, consider dropping us a line to add you to our growing list of providers. You would not only get aid in finding clients but also you would be helping someone find the peace they deserve.
Shortly, CPTSD Foundation will have compiled a long list of providers who treat complex post-traumatic stress disorder. When it becomes available, we will be putting it on our website www.CPTSDFoundation.org.
Make sure to visit us and sign up for our weekly newsletter that will help keep you informed on treatment options and much more for complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
If you or a loved one are living in the despair and isolation that comes with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, please, come to us for help. CPTSD Foundation offers a wide range of services including:
The Healing Book Club
Today, CPTSD Foundation would like to invite you to our healing book club, where we are reading a new book in July 2020. The title of the latest featured book is “ The Drama of the Gifted Child, The Search for the True Self” by Alice Miller.
The book examines childhood trauma and the lifelong effects it has on a person’s management of repressed anger and pain.
Led by Sabra Cain, the healing book club is only $7 per month, the fee going towards scholarships for those who cannot afford access to materials offered by CPTSD Foundation.
Should you decide to join the Healing Book Club, please purchase your books through our Amazon link to help us help you.
All our services are reasonably priced, and some are even free. So, to gain more insight into how complex post-traumatic stress disorder is altering your life and how you can overcome it, sign-up, we will be glad to help you. If you cannot afford to pay to go to www.cptsdfoundation.org/scholarship to apply for aid. We only wish to serve you.