Finding the right trauma counsellor. The picture shows an individual in a field of yellow flowers.

Embark on a transformative journey with this episode, "Finding the right counsellor" where we delve into the intricate world of trauma counselling.

Join me as I share personal experiences, uncover the 6 crucial characteristics of a good trauma counsellor, and unveil the step-by-step guide to finding the right counselor for your healing journey. 

Listening to this episode, you'll:

  • Learn about 6 crucial characteristics of a good trauma counsellor
  • Discover a step-by-step guide on finding the right counsellor
  • Find out about 9 essential questions to ask a trauma therapist
  • Gain insight about important terminologies like trauma-informed practice or trauma focussed counselling
  • Understand better the complexities of the counselling field.


Dive into insightful discussions on trauma-informed practices, specialized trauma training, and the art of creating a healthy therapeutic relationship.

Tune in today and empower yourself with everything you need to know to find the right trauma counsellor.

 

 

Follow now: Apple Podcast/ Spotify / Amazon Music

 

If you prefer to read, here is the transcript:

Welcome to Trauma Demystified, a podcast by Bright Horizon Therapies.

I am Natalie Jovanic, your host on this journey of personal growth and healing. Today's episode is a deeply personal one, born out of the realization that finding the right counsellor can be a transformative journey, but it's not always a straightforward one. In our quest for healing and understanding, many of us have encountered both the light and shadow sides of counselling.

I have personally navigated through the challenges of an unhealthy therapeutic relationship, and it's an experience I share today to shed light on the importance of finding the right support. 

But don't worry, this episode is not just about the pitfalls. It's about empowerment and equipping you with the tools to make informed choices on your therapeutic journey. We'll delve into the essential characteristics of a good trauma counselor, providing you with actionable steps and questions to guide you in finding the right fit for your unique healing journey.

So whether you are on the brink of seeking counseling or have been on this path for a while, join me as we explore the key elements of finding a good counselor for you.

Finding the right counselor for trauma recovery can be challenging, since each counselor is different. We work with different models, we have different formal and professional trainings, as well as a diversity of lived experiences. When I started my trauma recovery journey, I had no idea what to look for or what the options were when it came to counselors.

When my relationship broke apart, I decided to go to counseling, because I wanted to hear from the violence I had experienced as a child. My goal was to have healthy relationships, and I wanted to have healthy behaviors as a parent. Due to how the health system in Germany worked, I went to a psychiatrist first. I had 15 minutes to explain my story, and then he gave me the name of a psychologist. There was no further explanation.

A couple of weeks later, I sat in the psychologist's office, terrified of being stigmatized by her. She sat opposite me. I was wondering what I should tell her. I had no idea what was important. I looked at her and hoped instantly that she'd ask me some questions. I did not know how to talk about my inner world. She looked at me, silently.

 After some moments, I gave up on my wish for a question and hoped that I would say the right things, the things that would be important for my healing. I began my story. When I was three years old, I was sexually abused. My father and my stepfather were both manipulative. My mother died of cancer when I was 19, and my father kept continuing to stalk me after I cut ties with him. I've just left my boyfriend, and he blames me for the breakup. I want to solve this problem.”

 She looked at me with a grimace full of pity and said, “You are telling me such horrible things, and you are smiling.” I knew that I was smiling. What else did she want me to do? It was the only story I had. I did not have any better experience to share. How I would have loved to share a story full of lightness and joy, but I couldn't. I felt worse than ever.

Her words and her pity made me shrink back in my seat. That's it? Nothing I can do? Looking at her did not give me any hope. I left her office, more disparate and disoriented than ever.

I showed up to our sessions because I wanted to heal. Here is just to share another incidence of this collaboration. At the same time I was dating another man. He had broken up with me twice before. When he broke up with me for the third time, I sat in the psychologist's office and said, “Well, for me it's over now. I've already packed up his stuff that he had in my apartment, and I send it back to him.”

 My psychology looked at me with cool eyes and said, You are complicated. You will always find complicated partners. I looked at her. Her words broke my heart. I knew that my past has been difficult, but did this mean that I would only find complicated partners? That was all I would get in a relationship? I couldn't believe that. I wanted to have a loving and respectful relationship. What was so complicated about that wish? I looked at her, a woman in her 40s, whom I sometimes saw as a grey mouse, yet she was a psychologist, she was the authority. She had the power. If she said it, it must be true.

The accuracy of her words hit me deep in my heart, and I decided to learn. I looked at her and asked, So what would be the right thing to do? And she told me that I was not yet finished and that I had to talk to him. I didn't really understand what she meant. Her words did not make a lot of sense to me, she really never had asked me any questions about this relationship, and she didn't have any other information than she had in that moment. Once again, I gave my power away, and I thought that she had the authority, and I decided to do what she said because I wanted to heal.

Reflecting on it today, I would have avoided further hurt if I had respected my boundaries at the first time. It probably would have been a more valuable learning, but I ended up in another circle with the other person I was dating, and it came to the same result as it always did. Finally, I ended that relationship, and I actually also ended the relationship with a therapist when I moved to Spain.

Back then, I wasn't aware, but now I know that her approach wasn't aligned with trauma counseling. In the beginning, I really didn't know what to look for in a counselor and also what the differentiations were between normal counseling and a trauma counseling. On one hand, I know that her approach wasn't okay, and on the other hand, I also don't think that she was the only case in the field who didn't know it.

So here are some of the things how my former psychologist's approach lacked a couple of important elements when it comes to working with trauma:

  • She never gave me any psychoeducation around trauma. While I had clear symptoms of trauma like dissociations or self-injury, she never explained to me that they were connected to trauma.
  • Her approach was judgmental and pathologizing. She came from a perspective what was wrong with me, which isn't trauma-informed.
  • She never put in any effort into creating a trustworthy or safe relationship with me. Additionally, she did not manage the inherent power imbalance in the therapeutic relationship, nor did she pay any attention to support me in creating healthy boundaries or reconnecting with my boundaries.

On a positive note, there was some light in the darkness of this relationship. The useful aspect was that she used my imagination. And using my imagination helped me connect with some of my parts. I'm not sure whether that was intentional because these parts emerged organically. And she honestly never really explained me anything about parts work or what the intention were about the exercises we did. However, it was really meaningful for myself.

Over the years, I worked with counselors who had many different approaches. They came from different cultures, but they were mainly from Canada, Spain, and Germany. I was lucky enough to really find excellent role models in my training in Spain because they really role modeled to me how trauma counseling should look like. 

So overall, each of my experiences has taught me something valuable on what a trauma counselor should be doing and what they should avoid doing. So they also now informed the different traits I will share with you that I consider important for a trauma counselor. 

 

Trait 1: A good trauma counsellor integrates trauma-informed practices

So the first trait is that a good trauma counselor integrates trauma-informed practice. And this one is easy to set and harder to do. In theory, all counselors should integrate trauma-informed care due to the nature of our work, but I'm aware that this is not a reality. Trauma-informed care is based on the assumption that an individual is more likely to have a trauma history than not.

If we are realistic in today's world, the majority of people will have experienced some sort of traumatic events just to give you some rough ideas around estimates. Some estimates say that 75% of people living in Canada will experience at least one traumatic event throughout their lifetime. Some research indicates that over 50% of people grew up in dysfunctional families and other experts believe that these numbers are even higher. Statistics in the United States say that between 70 to 80% of Americans believe that their family was dysfunctional. I believe that all of this data calls for trauma-informed care.

So what is trauma-informed practice?

Trauma-informed practice moves away from the question what is wrong with you. It explores what has happened to the individual and sees the symptoms in the context of trauma. The question what is wrong with you comes from the medical model, which is useful for physical health. Unfortunately, our human psyche is more complex and is not aligned with the medical model. Trauma-informed practice reduces stigma because it doesn't pathologize and it is aligned with healing.

Trauma-informed practice follows five guiding principles that need to be integrated in the counselor's work. They are safety, trustworthiness and transparency, peer support, collaboration and mutuality, empowerment and choice, and cultural and historical and gender issues.

Please note that these principles need to be lived by the counselor. The question is how do I generate safety as a counselor in my relationship with my client? How do I collaborate with my clients?

Here are three examples on how I apply these principles. I actively speak with my clients about safety and explore their emotional and physical safety, whether it's in their lives or in our relationship. Boundaries play a very important role in this, whether it's about inviting my clients to recognize their boundaries or whether it's about that I respect their boundaries if I invite them to do an experiment and they say no to it. In general, I collaborate with my clients in creating the treatment plan, which means I explain to them the different options and I also give them the transparency on why I choose these options. And the clients can choose which options resonate with them.

So here's a thing about trauma-informed practice, which I think is important to understand. While I use trauma-informed practice, I'm also a trauma counselor. Trauma counselor means that I have specialized trainings to work with trauma. Trauma counseling is also not a must requirement for a counselor. Trauma counselors are also sometimes called trauma-focused counselors. Trauma-informed practice doesn't include trauma counseling, even though the boundaries are a little bit vague. So trauma counseling is really about working with an individual who has experienced trauma.

Trauma-informed practice can be used in all different forms of counseling, whether the counselor works with grief, depression, anxiety, or addictions. Like many of these symptoms can be connected to past trauma. And if a counselor who works, for example, with addictions is trauma-informed, they really see the addictions in the context and as a symptom of trauma. They may not really work directly with the traumatic past that happened to the individual.

Please be aware that trauma-informed practice has become a buzzword in the counseling field. Some counselors claim that they are trauma-informed, even though they do not practice it. Therefore, I think it's always useful to ask a counselor whether they can give specific examples on how they practice trauma-informed care.

 

Trait 2: A good trauma therapist needs to have specialized training in trauma

A trauma counselor needs to have specialized training in how to work with trauma. When I trained to become a counselor, working with trauma was a separate and elective module. However, the most valuable trainings I had in the context of trauma were professional development trainings after my formal education. These trainings ranged from EMDR to somatic body-orientated approaches, working with dissociations and attachment to parts work. I still consider the trainings from Jadina Fischer around trauma as extremely valuable. She has different curriculums, and what she trains in is really amazing work that really resonates with me.

While these trainings are important, the other question is also how the counselor applies them when they work with a client.

For example, when I did the training for EMDR, I went also through a change management process to ensure that I fully integrated into the work with my clients.

Here are some of the changes that I implemented. I adjusted the intake process for my clients. For example, it is necessary to assess the symptoms of dissociations to do EMDR safely. Therefore, I integrated a questionnaire to explore this with my clients. The training included different tools for the different stages of trauma recovery. For example, there was a tool to work with attachment wounds that were applicable for stage one, safety and stabilization. The actual EMDR, which means the memory reprocessing, needed to be integrated in stage two of trauma recovery. So I adjusted the tools and the methods I were already using so that I can integrate EMDR into it.

Since it also was a significant change process, I decided to do a practicum when I offered a significant amount of free sessions to other counselors to ensure quality of service. I also changed my supervisor since the one I was working with did not have the professional expertise to work with trauma. Supervision is an important part to provide quality of service as a counselor. I consult with my supervisor when I have concerns about a specific situation or if I feel stuck in the process with a client. If my supervisor did not have the professional expertise to work with trauma, their feedback might not be accurate to improve the situation for my client.

EMDR is just one example, but each professional training requires that I sit down and integrate it into how I work with my clients. Some of my clients say that they continue to work with me over a long time since I bring new approaches to them that allows them to gain a new understanding. Apart from professional trainings, I also learned through the collaborations with my clients. Just to give you an example, I once worked with a client who had symptoms of dissociations. We explored an experiment for somatic body practices that I had recently learned in a training. After that experiment, they said that they felt like there were too much in their body, so I invited them to reduce their being in their body to a degree that it felt good to them. After that experience, I started to change how I facilitate this exercise so their clients can stop when they feel like they are at their limit.

In general, recovery from trauma means to reconnect with the body, but it needs to be done in a way that works for the client. Pacing really matters in this context. While the training I attended on somatic practices was very valuable, the nuances on how to apply it were not taught in the training. I continuously evolved the tool while I worked with my clients, dependent on the context we are in. Overall, trauma counseling is a constant growth process. Since our knowledge around trauma is constantly evolving, the trauma counselor also needs to continuously evolve their expertise around working with trauma. Please also note that working with complex trauma often requires an additional skill training. My foundational training for EMDR did not include the aspects around dissociation and attachment. I learned that in a different training. As a summary, trauma-informed care as well as specialized trainings are an important foundation to even start with trauma counseling, but it doesn't end here.

 

The third trait is that a trauma counsellor creates a healthy therapeutic relationship.

When it comes to success in trauma recovery, we need to keep in mind that there are three major contributing factors for success. The client's commitment, the methodology, and the therapeutic relationship between the client and the therapist. The relationship between the client and the counselor matters, and it's the counselor's responsibility to create it.

I deeply believe in the quote from Judith Herman, which says:

No intervention that takes power away from the survivor can possibly foster their recovery, no matter how much it appears to be in their immediate best interest. Judith Herman

 At its core, a trauma counselor pays attention to give the power to their clients. This is a multifaceted process, since there is an inherent power imbalance in the relationship between the client and the counselors.

So here are some important aspects to get there.

Stigma and harsh judgment are a boundary violation and an act of power over. Therefore, a trauma counselor needs to be non-judgmental and non-pathologizing towards their clients. They lean into curiosity.

Carl Rogers used the term unconditional positive regard. It involves accepting and supporting a person without judgment or criticism, regardless of their thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.

In my own trauma recovery journey, I faced stigma by mental health professionals. Until today, I believe that the pain of stigma was greater than the pain of the trauma that happened to me, because the social dynamics of stigma don't go away even if you are healed and even if the symptoms aren't there anymore.

I believe that trauma counselors need to do their own healing work to unwind stigma, since we are conditioned to a degree by the environment we live in. This doesn't necessarily mean that they have to have experienced trauma. I once worked with a mental health professional in my experience of child sexual violence, and she stated she can't understand my experience because her childhood was healthy. However, her disclosure was really helpful for me to navigate the power imbalance on our relationship, and I felt more connected to her after she shared it.

A trauma counselor also pays attention to boundaries. They explore the boundaries with their clients, and they are able to set healthy boundaries for themselves. They have healthy communication skills, and they can admit it if they made a mistake. They also respect the client's boundaries.

Furthermore, a trauma counselor has systemic awareness and a knowledge about systemic oppression, and they also acknowledge systemic dynamics when they appear in their client's story. If the trauma counselor has privilege toward the client, they are able to manage it healthily.

So to give you an example, and I'm aware that this is a really big topic. If I work with clients who are black or people of color or who are indigenous, I have privilege toward them because I'm white and I'm a settler. Privilege in itself inherently includes power.

So I need to pay attention how I handle my privilege, because without acknowledging my own privilege towards a client, my reflections may easily sound condescending. So in general, if I have a therapeutic relationship with somebody who is black or indigenous or a person of color, I acknowledge that I have privilege. I also acknowledge the dynamics of systemic racism. And in general, I don't normalize these dynamics because these dynamics are simply not okay while they are really real. So in a way, I acknowledge them, but I also explain to clients to which degree they are toxic.

Additionally, a trauma therapists integrates a principle of trauma-informed practice into the therapeutic relationship. This means they focus on establishing safety and client empowerment. They give their clients options instead of telling them what to do, and they're also transparent about what they do.

Last but not least, a trauma counselor stays calm when the client discloses a traumatic event. Why does that matter? If clients disclose their stories, their nervous system is usually under stress. At least I usually had heightened emotions when I disclosed my story to healthcare professionals. If the counselor can stay calm, they support the client to regulate their nervous system. They may show empathy, but they refrain to show pity or shock. They also acknowledge the strength they see in the clients.

As I said earlier, my first therapist frequently expressed her pity toward me. The problem with pity is that it's about judging the other person as less fortunate than they are. The person who expresses pity puts themselves into a superior position. The person at the receiving end of pity often feels less than judged. Pity doesn't create a relationship under equals. Empathy and non-judgment is about our shared humanity and building a relationship under equals. This is an essential trait for trauma counseling.

Overall, the therapeutic relationship is an important element of efficient trauma counseling. It is the therapist's responsibility to create a safe, trustworthy, non-pathologizing environment and to manage their power and privilege healthily. A trauma counselor role models healthy boundaries and communication. They are curious about their clients' experience and they respect their clients' boundaries.

 

The fourth trait is that a good trauma counselor provides psychoeducation about trauma.

Since stigma is still prevalent in our society, people often believe that there is something wrong with them if they have experienced trauma. While this often feels very real in their bodies, it is not the truth. Psychoeducation helps people understand that their symptoms are a protective coping mechanism to an incredibly difficult experience. The symptoms are neither a sign of weakness nor a character flaw or a sign that the person is crazy or forever broken.

Just to give you an example, some symptoms like substance use or self-injury support an individual to regulate a dysregulated nervous system. It is maybe not the healthiest coping skill, but it was a coping skill that had a beneficial aspect for the client. 

So how do I use it? I provide psychoeducation around structural dissociations. Structural dissociations is a mechanism through which the mind constructs internal walls to segregate and protect against an overwhelming flood of emotions. This mechanism is designed to protect us from being inundated by emotions. I will explain this concept in a future episode. So when I express this concept to my clients, I usually check in with them what resonates for them and what doesn't. And some of my clients feel really deeply seen when they hear about the concept because they understand that their symptoms are connected with a protective mechanism in their brain. So for example, if an individual has symptoms of borderline personality disorder or they have symptoms of dissociations, this concept explains to them that these symptoms are protective mechanisms that the brain used to survive.

I also usually educate about the window of tolerance and how people can use it as a tool to manage intense emotion. Polyvagal theory is very useful to understand how our nervous system functions and how it responds to cues of safety, danger, and life threat in our relationships and now in our environment and our bodies. I also guide people through an exercise how the different states feel in their bodies so that it's easier for them in the future to recognize them. And then we explore practices that can help them to get back into a state of safety and connection.

I have noticed that psychoeducation helps most of my clients to see that they are not crazy, but having adaptive responses to an overwhelming experience. It also supports them in regaining control as well as not feeling so alone.

 

The fifth trait is that trauma counselors provide a collaborated assessment with the client.

In this context, I call assessment any form of evaluation of relevant factors in the client's life when it comes to their recovery. Assessment can help to identify the themes that can be further explored in the counseling relationship. The assessment is done continuously throughout the process and collaboratively with the client. 

So in this context, the counselor again should avoid power over dynamic and actively share their power with the client. This means they don't tell the client what to do, but they really explore even if they share ideas what resonates with the client and what doesn't. In general, as a professional, I may know many different things about trauma and many tools for recovery. However, the client is the expert in their lives, and the objective is usually to deepen the understanding of the client's world. 

Just to give you some idea on how I use assessment, I use a questionnaire to assess symptoms of dissociations. This means the client fills out the questionnaire and we explore what they meant with their answers. This question is really important to assess dissociations, and it matters to create a useful treatment plan. It also prepares individuals for EMDR.

 

I usually provide psychoeducation about the window of tolerance first, and then later on I use this concept to really ask my clients whether they can identify in what state they are in, whether they are in the window of tolerance, whether they are in hypoarousal or in hypoarousal. My intention is that they develop self-awareness around what state they are in so that they can use the tools on their own. So usually when they say they are outside of the window of tolerance, I just ask them whether they want to do a grounding exercise, and if you have already introduced some grounding exercises, I also can ask them which one they want to use. Some of my clients also ask me to do grounding exercises when they notice that they slowly get outside of the window of tolerance. 

Overall, it is a collaborative process that may vary from client to client.

Please note that assessment and diagnosing are two very different things. A diagnosis consists of identifying a specific mental disorder based on a pattern of presenting symptoms. In my professional practice, I don't provide diagnosis. However, I explore the symptoms of trauma with my clients. Please keep in mind that trauma exists on a spectrum, and not having a diagnosis doesn't mean that you haven't experienced trauma.

A diagnosis of PTSD means that the specific patterns of symptoms fit into the diagnostic criteria of the DSM-5. The DSM-5 is a standard classification of mental disorders that is used by mental health professionals in the United States and Canada. Different countries may use different standard classifications. So PTSD means we fit the criteria. Having experienced trauma really exists on a spectrum, and if people don't fit the criteria to be diagnosed with PTSD, it still means that they have experienced trauma.

Overall, assessment needs to be done in a collaborative process between the client and the counselor. The objective is to increase the understanding of the client's unique inner world and support their recovery.

 

Last but not least, sixth trait is that a trauma counselor needs to do their own healing work.

I believe that it's essential for trauma counselors to do their own healing work. I also believe that my own healing journey from trauma gives me a better understanding on how to work with it. There are many different approaches out there when it comes to counseling. Some of them are more useful for healing trauma than others.

I use the reflections of my own healing journey and the observations I made while working with my clients to really discern what models do I find helpful and which ones do I not find helpful. For example, when I tried for EMDR, I was aware that there was a hype around it. Reflecting on the potential of EMDR, I find it useful. However, I'm also aware that it has limitations. Therefore, I integrate methods from different approaches so that I have more flexibilities to respond to my clients' needs. Additionally, I also apply the tools to myself on my own journey because I want to understand how they work.

When I trained in systemic constellations in Spain, my instructors held us accountable for our own healing work. So why does it matter? There are many different reasons for this, so here are some examples.

As a counselor, I can only role model healthy boundaries if I'm connected to my own and if I understand what boundaries are. I wasn't aware of my boundaries when I first started my healing journey, and I needed to build the skill.

The other element is if I introduce tools like parts work, clients often find the concepts weird because it's a very different way to look at the world and also a different way to do therapy. I can hold space for it because I also needed to go through my own process on what is parts work. Nowadays, I feel very comfortable to have a conversation with my parts.

The other aspect my instructors emphasize is that clients are unlikely to go anywhere where the counselor isn't willing to go. For example, if I avoid my pain and my vulnerability, it is unlikely that the client is willing to look at their pain and be vulnerable. So I think there is just a balance in it. The more we do our healing, the more we are open for our clients and the more we can support their healing journey in a positive way.

In general, trauma is related to a misuse of power, especially when we talk about relational trauma or if you look at elements of developmental trauma. We live in a society where misuse of power is normalized. Some counselors may have their own history of violence due to misuse of power. Due to my own journey around violence, I used to reject power since I did not want to abuse it. However, when I became a counselor, I really needed to learn to embrace it and to learn how to use it healthily. And so part of my work is really informed on how can I acknowledge the power imbalance and how can I leverage it as good as possible.

Just to give you one example, asking questions in itself is an act of power. It is part of the counseling relationship. For some clients, it may be dysregulating when I ask my questions. In general, I normalize the experience because it is a protective coping mechanism of trauma and I adjust my approach. 

Another layer of complexity is if counselors have privilege towards their clients. If I work with a Black or Indigenous person, I have privilege towards them. While I am aware that this is a continuous and complex learning process, I educate myself about systemic oppression, racism, colonization, and I integrate this knowledge in my counseling sessions.

Overall, counselors need to engage in their own healing work to provide a better quality of service for their clients. Self-awareness is key for counselors in providing more effective and ethical counseling work. 

So now you've learned about the six traits of a good trauma counseling, lets look at the steps to find the right counsellor.

 

What are the steps to find a good trauma counsellor? 

The first step I would invite you really explore your own needs as far as you can. For example, can you create some awareness about what type of trauma you may have experienced? The approach to trauma treatment is likely to be different if an individual has experienced trauma due to a single event like a car accident or if they have experienced relational trauma due to domestic violence or if they have experienced childhood abuse. It is just likely to have different degrees of complexity. So if you have a little bit of an idea about what is going on for yourself, it may be useful for you to find a better fitting counselor.

When you look for a counselor, you have different options. You can either use the internet search engines like Google and use trauma related keywords like trauma counseling, EMDR, EMDR therapy, EMDR counseling, or trauma informed practice.

And so I would invite you if you find a website, just really check how much information do they provide about trauma, about trauma recovery or trauma counseling. What level of detail do they give you? How does this information feel for you?

Another option is to go to counseling directories like psychology today and use trauma as a selection criteria and then really see the different options and once again check the website. Another option is to ask friends whether they have a referral.

Then you can make a short list and set up a free phone conversation. I personally would avoid counselors who don't offer you a free phone consultation to give the opportunity to get to know them better before you invest into a paid session.

 

9 Essential questions to ask a counsellor 

In this free consultation in general, people share a little bit about what they want to work on and what has happened to them. So based on that, you can ask them based on what I shared with you, how would you work with me? If you prefer a more generic question, you can ask, can you describe your therapeutic approach to trauma counseling? With this question, you can explore the counselor's methods, the intervention and techniques to ensure they align with your preference and needs.

The second question is, what experience do you have in working with trauma survivors? You can adjust this question to the specific area you want to work on. For example, the approach for working with clients is, as I said, different if somebody has experienced childhood abuse or if somebody has experienced trauma due to a car accident. So this question helps you understand the counselor's expertise and level of experience as specifically for you specific context.

The next question is, how do you create a safe and supportive environment for trauma survivors? Understanding the counselor's approach for creating a safe space is crucial for effective trauma therapy.

The next question is, how do you handle potential triggers or intense emotional reactions during a session? This question helps you guard the counselor's preparedness to many challenging moments in the therapeutic process.

The fifth question is, what is your stance on client empowerment and involvement in the therapeutic process? This question assesses how the counselor values their client's input and how they collaborate with their clients in their healing journey. It can also give you an indicator on how they navigate power in the therapeutic relationship and whether or not they practice trauma-informed care. As I stated before, trauma-informed practice requires client empowerment, choice and transparency.

The sixth question is, can you explain your view on the duration and frequency of trauma therapy sessions? Understanding the counselor's recommended session structures help you plan and commit to the therapy process more effectively. Be cautious if they tell you a very concrete timeframe about when you are healed. While it is tempting, each individual's recovery journey is different and it is unlikely that it can be predicted.

The next question is more organizational and concerning your budget. You can ask them what their fears are and whether they have a variable pricing structure. This really helps you to better understand whether they fit into your budget. It may also help you understand whether there might be an option for a reduced price in case at one stage you may have some financial constraints. 

The eighth question is, have you personally engaged in therapy and if so, how recently was your last experience? Knowing the counselor's personal experience with therapy and its recency can provide insights onto their self-awareness and also the understanding of the therapeutic process.

And if you are somebody who belongs to an intentionally marginalized group, I would ask the counselor what their stance is on anti-oppressive and anti-racist practice, as well as navigating their privilege in the therapeutic relationship. One of my hopes is that one day the counseling fields really integrate anti-oppressive practices. Right now, that is not the case. So if you work with a counselor who has privilege towards you, I believe that anti-oppressive practices increases the safety in the therapeutic relationship. Please keep in mind that some counselors use this term in a performative way. Therefore, it's important that you really get more details on how they practice it.

So I hope that these nine questions really help you to find a trauma counselor who is a great fit for you. And this concludes another episode of Trauma Demystified. I want to express my gratitude for joining me on this exploration on finding the right counselor. Remember, your well-being is paramount, and the decision to seek counseling is a powerful step towards healing. If you ever encountered a challenging therapeutic experience, know you are not alone. If through sharing our stories and insight that we empower one another, we have discussed the five essential characteristics of a good trauma counselor, the steps to guide you in finding the right support, and the nine crucial questions to ask during the selection process. Armed with this knowledge, I hope you feel more confident and informed as you navigate this important aspect of your healing journey. If you liked this episode, please subscribe to Trauma Demystified. If you want to find more information, please check out brighthorizontherapies.com. Thanks again for tuning in. I hope to connect with you soon in our next episode.

If you are interested in working with me, book a free discovery session.

In this session, we will explore your specific situation and define the goals you'd like to achieve. I will explain to you how I would work with you and answer any questions. As a result, you have an idea whether we are a good fit. 

Natalie Jovanic

Natalie Jovanic

Master Therapeutic Counsellor & Trauma Recovery Coach

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