How to choose the “healer” with whom to do your work...and why it matters.
We live in a society where we blindly trust those we see as authorities and/or individuals, who state they are experts or specialists in a particular area. We trust the title and don't go beyond that with questions like "What makes you an expert?", "Where did you receive your training?", "What certification process did you go through and are you actually certified in the field that you state you are an expert or specialist in?". Furthermore, it has become increasingly easier to create an image of “expert” through social media sites simply by posting content, images, and attending events in the area in which you claim to be an expert. As a psychotherapist, I am specialized in the field of trauma and have been working in this field for over 20 years. I am incredibly passionate about the mental health care people receive in working through their trauma/emotional disturbance and feel motivated to share information to those in my community and at large in an attempt to help increase awareness and understanding.
Over the past two decades the words “trauma”, “Post traumatic Stress”, and PTSD, have become more present than ever. The incredible research that has taken place over the past 20 years has helped to expand our understanding and treatment of trauma and how treating it correctly can result in complete healing. Determining if your trauma expert is really credible is critical because it makes a difference in your treatment outcome.
Begin by asking yourself a few critical questions. Ask yourself "Do I want to heal my emotional distress and symptoms?” or "Do I want to mask, bandage, redirect, disconnect, or avoid my pain?" If you answered the latter, then maybe the expertise you consult is non-pertinent. I would like to convince you otherwise. Our healers, friends, family, alcohol, drugs, etc., can all help us bandage most things temporarily or even maybe for longer period of time depending on the strength of the bandage and how often you get it reapplied. There are really good “band aiders” out there. However the danger of the bandage approach is that it contradicts the basic inherent drive that our body has toward healing. Our brain is wired to heal wounds. We are not wired to walk around with infected wounds. But take a look around; we have a lot of wounded people carrying their infected wounds around day in and day out. Some people are so good at covering up their wounds with barely detectable bandages but the wound is still there and is more than likely going to get bumped. What happens when that pain/wound gets bumped? The answer is that it hurts because the debris, infection, the psychological pain -the trauma- whatever you want to call it, has not been effectively healed-it is stuck and needs some professional expert help. Let me circle back around now to why it is important to carefully consider the person with whom to do your work.
Education, Training, Experience, Self-care
Understanding what goes along with the entire process of psychological pain that is stuck-TRAUMA-involves an in-depth understanding of neurology, psychology, and then the training on how to assess and treat. Just as critical to the educational component is the mastery of your therapist’s ability to skillfully and artfully sense the unique way your system holds onto and deals with the pain you are experiencing. These particular skills get developed when your healer has years of meaningful experience, is attending advanced training workshops relevant to recent research in the field in which they are specialized, participating in regular case consultation with other specialists in their field, and participating in their own mental health self-care practice. Currently there are two therapies that are endorsed by The World Health Organization as being effective and evidenced based therapies for the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with children, adolescents, and adults. These two therapies are Trauma focused CBT and EMDR Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing. You are welcome to explore exposure therapy which is effective but painful-Who wants to go through hell twice ? To summarize my point-ask your therapist/healer questions regarding their training, their approach to trauma, why they consider themselves to be an expert, and how they take care of their own mental health.
Disturbing life experiences range from Big T traumas (war, death, rape, assault) , Small T traumas, and attachment trauma (the trauma that is insidious and pervasive within a primary caregiver relationship) Helping individuals with trauma involves more than just hearing about the person’s trauma. Conversely, healing your trauma means more than just sharing or talking about your trauma experience. Trauma can get stuck-like a sliver that if not healed properly can create a VERY LARGE and PAINFUL infection. Simply talking about the sliver in your thumb does not remove the sliver and the resulting pain. In fact, research is finding that when we are stuck in the trauma experience and encouraged to rehearse or tell the story over and over, symptoms can actually intensify and the stuck sliver just gets stuck a little bit deeper. When we effectively treat trauma, the “Stuckness” or “block” of the disturbing life experience is removed and transformation of the emotional distress and the accompanying symptoms occurs. The sliver is not only removed, but the infected wound itself is successfully cleaned out and closed. No more infection means no more being triggered...because there is nothing left in the wound that hurts when it gets bumped. The only thing that remains is a scar, an awareness that the trauma happened along with a neutral or even positive thought experienced both in the mind and body...maybe thoughts like “I survived it”, “I am strong”, “I matter”.
Now imagine for a minute, working with your healer and having all of this trauma opened up (scab removed) and then not being able to appropriately process it? Imagine what it might feel like to walk away from an interaction with your healer with all of that pain open? Now imagine how someone walking around with that open wound might respond to help manage that pain they are feeling? Often times, the management tools we developed to deal with the pain intensify. Maybe the alcoholic decides to drink more, the drug abuser uses more, the rager rages more, the controller controls more. This is what happens when we are triggered-wound bumped, scabbed removed, trauma not healed. Being triggered is an incredibly painful state to be in. The triggered person is out of their window of tolerance and their autonomic nervous system takes over. The triggered person finds him or herself in a state of hyperarousal- out of control, angered, scared, overwhelmed, irritated, frustrated, panicked and/or hypoarousal-depressed, defeated, numb, overwhelmed, disconnected etc.. Credible experts in the field of trauma know how to handle these situations and the care you receive from them greatly impacts the outcome of your healing.
Trauma, being triggered, and being stuck in a state of suffering is both concerning and serious. What emerges from these conditions affects not only the individual’s mental health, but those in relationship to them and the community at large. My hope is that by now you are beginning to understand why it is so imperative to make sure your healer is a credible expert in the field in which they claim to be one. This applies to life coaches, school psychologists, counselors, victim advocates, pastors, priests, psychotherapists, reiki masters, massage therapists, yoga instructors, and any other healing arts that connect with the psychology held in one’s mind and body.
Your mental health is a critical part of your foundation. Choose someone to help you heal your trauma wisely. Your mental health depends on it, and your healing journey is one of the most important journeys of your life. Our area hosts several professionals who are not only trained academically in the healing field and therefore are licensed to diagnose and treat by the state, but also extensively certified and specialized.
If you need a referral, we can connect you with some great referral options. Healthy therapists know that they will not be a perfect fit for everyone. So if you begin your work with someone and realize after the first or few sessions that it's not a good fit, you're allowed and we encourage you to ask your therapist for a referral. A healthy therapist will not take this personally and chances are they feel the same way. Healthy therapists want to make sure clients get the care they need! Even if it's not with them!
On behalf of myself, my team and the fellow trauma therapists from our Northwest Ohio EMDR Regional network, I would like to invite you to connect with any of us should you be in search of someone to do your trauma work. We have a strong commitment to mental health, our practice, educating individuals in our community, and healing lives.
For more information about EMDR Therapy go to www.EMDR.Com
To connect with our team of therapists go to www.karunahousellc.com