Finally, you’ll want to learn about how the therapist works, Dr. Crawford says. In addition to some of the points covered earlier, ask direct questions like the following: What trauma-informed approaches are you trained or certified in? How does that treatment work? How would you describe your style of working?
10. Ask yourself if you can envision working with this person.
Another purpose of the first session (or first few sessions) is feeling out the dynamic of the therapeutic relationship, Dr. Bryant says. After a session while it’s still fresh, check in with yourself and reflect on whether you feel comfortable and emotionally safe connecting with this person, she recommends. Do you feel like you were heard, respected, understood, and validated? Did you feel a sense of calm, safety, or hopefulness in their presence? Those are positive signs, Dr. Bryant says. On the contrary, do you feel like you were misunderstood, disrespected, dismissed, talked over, or talked down to? Did you feel a sense of unease, lack of safety, or coldness in their presence? Those are generally signs the therapist is not the right fit.
11. Don’t be discouraged if it’s not a match.
“I want to normalize the experience of having to meet with several different therapists before you find the right fit,” Dr. Crawford says. If it doesn’t feel like a match, it doesn’t mean therapy is not for you, Dr. Bryant emphasizes—it just means it’s not the right therapist for you.
A non-match can also be a good opportunity to reflect on what didn’t feel right, Dr. Bryant says, which can help guide your search going forward. For instance, you might make a list of what you did and didn’t like about the interaction, questions that you wished you asked sooner for next time, or qualities that are important to you in a therapist that you didn’t realize before.
12. Have an honest conversation about medication.
While therapy is a cornerstone of trauma care, medication is also “a really helpful tool” for some people, Dr. Crawford says. Antidepressants, which are the most studied drugs for PTSD, can help reduce distressing symptoms and therefore help enhance a person’s quality of life. In turn, they may feel better engaged in the deeper healing work of therapy, Dr. Crawford says.
If you start your trauma treatment search at your primary care doctor’s office, you can ask them about medication, including what side effects you might experience and whether you may need to try various medications before you find the best fit. A therapist is also a great resource here. “You can share some of your ongoing symptoms and get their insights as to whether medications could be helpful,” as well as a psychiatrist referral if you’re interested, Dr. Crawford says.
It’s also entirely understandable if you are feeling nervous or hesitant about medication. “If you prefer not to take medication for whatever reason, let your therapist know so they can provide coping techniques tailored to your personal preferences,” Dr. Crawford adds. “Therapists can provide support to help you navigate your situation without medication.”
13. Consider support groups or group therapy.
If you can’t afford one-on-one therapy, consider support groups (which are free) or group therapy (which is typically lower cost). These groups offer a safe space for openly talking about your experience and learning about additional resources, Dr. Crawford says. “Seeing other people in recovery can open up your mind to the possibility that recovery is a possibility for you,” she adds.