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Finding A Healing Connection

Tags: therapist

Many of you are at the point in this blog where you are wondering about your own need for therapy. Perhaps reading of my experiences has opened up some areas in your own life where you know you still need to heal. I know some of you may be fearful about the process of finding a Therapist. I can understand your concerns. I have pondered my own healing journey and have sought out the help of a seasoned therapist who has worked with clients who have suffered abuse. It is my hope these suggestions will be helpful in your own journey seeking a good therapist.

Advice for Finding a Therapist

1) A relationship with a therapist is a special and very personal relationship and needs to be a good “fit” for you. It is absolutely fine to search for someone you feel valued by, listened to, supported and with whom you have a positive connection. This process can take time. But it is well worth your efforts so take the time you need. You may need to interview several people.

2) Once you start into the process of looking for a therapist, there are a number of ways you can do this. Some people start by looking in the phone book or on the Internet for local mental health facilities, private practitioners or therapists who advertise a specialty in victims of abuse. You can also seek out a recommendation by word of mouth. This is probably the best way to get the names of good therapists. Get a name from a friend or a pastor who has a good relationship with a therapist and start there. If the therapist does not treat trauma, they may be able to find someone who does.

3) Once you get a name, be sure to interview that person on the phone and find out if that person meets your criterion for what you need. Feel free to ask questions about trauma experience and faith if you want to, and then feel free to go elsewhere if that person does not meet your expectations. Therapists and their office staff understand the fears and concerns you have in looking for a therapist and are used to answering those questions and directing you to other agencies if they are not going to be able to assist you.

You can ask questions such as: How long have you been practicing? How many trauma cases have you treated? What training do you have? What is your approach to trauma? Do you use EMDR or TIR or any other modalities? (These stand for “eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy” and “trauma incidence reduction.”)

You go to therapy for yourself, not to please the therapist. Don't worry about hurting their feelings. Worry about yourself!! Any question you want to know should be asked. A therapist who gets offended or defensive with any question isn't the right therapist.

4) Many people are concerned that their therapy will be a lengthy process because of the duration of their abuse. It is not a bad thing to go to more than one therapist. Although it is important to only work with one person at a time, when you feel the process is no longer meeting your needs, feel free to seek out someone new. Some therapists believe that it takes at least three different therapy experiences to heal from extreme cases of abuse. Of course, there are exceptions to this. The therapist is not nearly as important as your own process. The therapist is a facilitator and should be working to help you toward managing your life on your own. Everyone is different and some people take months and years to get to a peaceful place. I worked hard for approximately five years and averaged three hours of work on my own for every hour I spent working directly with my therapist or in group therapy.

5) Pray for God’s guidance for your healing process. It may also help to have friends, as long as they are supportive and know how to do active listening, to hear about your therapy progress and help you decide whether your process is heading in the right direction. If you begin to have problems with your therapist, or if your therapist says something you experience as unsupportive, the first thing to do if you feel you are able is to talk the problems over with the therapist. If the therapist is defensive or insulted, it is best to find another therapist. It is the job of the therapist to put the needs of the client first, and to be able to clarify issues as opposed to taking on issues as a personal criticism. Therapists also need to apologize at times, if they say the wrong thing. They are only human beings and they are fallible. Give the therapeutic relationship a chance, but if it feels too “messy” then find a new therapist.

I was one of those clients who needed more than one therapist. My first therapist was a cognitive therapist who did a wonderful job of getting me started, but like is true for a lot of us, once the pain that we have been stuffing resurfaced I needed a different kind of help. I was burning with pain in the middle of my stomach as the emotion began to erupt, from my work with my cognitive therapist. I realized before too long that I was looking to him for something he could not provide. My original therapist was really excellent for me for a significant period of necessary time and work as he was helping me reconnect with my emotions, so long suppressed. But I felt like I was waking up in the middle of surgery because the anesthesia had worn off and there was no help for the pain. I was overwhelmed and struggling just to function in my normal responsibility at that time. I knew I needed to transition to find another therapist.

I had to hold on tight until I could find a safe place where there was professional ability AND compassionate ability. I was able to find a husband/wife couple who aided me in making more progress. The husband was more introverted and robotic in his style but his wife was so gentle and warm and kind. I did the hard, uncovering work safely with the husband while the wife helped me to feel loved and cared for. The transition between the cognitive therapist and the couple I worked with was very difficult for me. It was the Lord guiding me to this couple because it could have taken me a long time to find them. I did NOT have the skills to determine or assess their ability - God's leading brought me to them. And while I feel incredibly fortunate that I was able to transition to this couple who could support me in my journey, I have wanted to have the advice of a seasoned therapist to give you some guidelines I did not have myself when I made my transition! One important thing I learned in my transition is that it is very difficult to be simultaneously connecting with the pain while not having any person to turn to in the pain. But it could very well happen to anybody at any time. Most therapists who work with trauma victims have tremendous compassion and are able to fulfill the tasks of helping the person to reconnect with what happened to them and experience the pain again and to have the compassion to help the person get through it.

I remember the time and the exact freeway I was on in Southern California when the worst of the initial pain began to hit me. I wanted to go away somehow. It was necessary for me to pull my car off the freeway and park safely for a little while. I felt like a little small boy waking up in the reality of the intense adult world, without a mother or a father and nowhere to go with the pain. It was frightening and profoundly painful. This was obviously pain I had stuffed early in my life - it just started rushing out and for a period of time and I had nowhere to go with it and no one to process it with.

Since the goal of therapy of trauma victims is for them to deal with the pain that resurfaces after years of “stuffing” it makes sense that finding a therapist with both the cognitive and compassion skills needed to do both parts of the healing work would be ideal. In this difficult time I was desperate and disoriented. God brought me through that time in His great mercy and love. But I am offering this blog to give you ideas for finding the most experienced trauma therapists so perhaps you will not have to change therapists in mid-stream like I did.

I want to thank Charlotte Rosenak, Ph.D for the list of ideas for finding a therapist. Dr. Rosenak has worked with trauma victims for the last 35 years in Kansas City. She and many other wonderful, compassionate therapists have helped bring healing and life back to those of us who have lost our way due to the abuse of others. I owe my own therapists and people like Dr. Rosenak a deep debt of gratitude for their loving efforts to help other victims of trauma. Thanks to you all.

Mark Phelps

This post first appeared on My Journey Of Healing, please read the originial post: here

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Finding A Healing Connection


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