How to find a therapist for trauma

Deborah C. Escalante

Exhausted mid adult man listens to unrecognizable female therapist

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If you’re like many people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you may feel unsure about where to find therapists for treating your PTSD symptoms. Depending on the severity of their PTSD, some people may find the search for a PTSD therapist an overwhelming and stressful task.

Fortunately, there are now there are a number of websites with free search engines to help you find mental health providers in your area who treat PTSD. Of course, you’ll also need to consider the cost of therapy, insurance, location, treatment orientation, and whether the therapist is a good match.

This article discusses what PTSD counseling is and some popular websites to help you get started in your search for a PTSD therapist.

What Is PTSD Counseling?

PTSD counseling often involves a variety of treatments for PTSD that can relieve symptoms and help people learn coping skills to better manage their symptoms. In addition to medications, mental health professionals may utilize different types of psychotherapy such as cognitive processing therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR), and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).

If you have symptoms of PTSD, you should start by talking to a doctor or mental health professional to determine which type of treatment may be most effective for your specific situation. You might also consider utilizing the following resources in your search for a PTSD therapist.

While some people can bounce back after a traumatic event, others might experience long-lasting trauma symptoms, develop unhealthy coping strategies, or feel “stuck.” Trauma occurs when a person is overwhelmed by events and circumstances. After a traumatic incident or experiencing collective trauma, extreme stress can disrupt a person’s ability to cope. Sometimes, stress can lead to intense mental health symptoms, including nightmares, flashbacks, and painful memories.

Whether you’re coping with past trauma, navigating life after a traumatic experience, or living with trauma symptoms, working with a trauma therapist can make a big difference in your mental health journey. Here’s how to find a trauma therapist near you so you can move forward from trauma and start living a healthy, fulfilling life.

 Find a Trauma Therapist Near You WithTherapy

Check out online mental health directories.

Although there’s no database for trauma therapists, online directories can be a great starting point for your therapist search. Online directories make it easy to search for local therapists depending on their location and specialization. Some directories offer additional filters to help narrow your search, including options to search by insurance plan, gender, age, and other factors.

Here are some online directories that can help you narrow your search to find therapists near you:

Explore local resources.

Even if you live in a rural area, many communities offer resources to help individuals with trauma. If you’re a high school or university student, your school may provide access to guidance counselors, a counseling center, or affordable mental health treatment.

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If you’re employed, your human resources team may offer a list of local therapists. Although most employee assistance programs (EAPs) offer short-term treatment, your counselor can provide a referral to a licensed trauma therapist to continue the treatment process.

If you seek specific interventions for domestic or sexual abuse, local advocacy organizations may offer group therapy and individual therapy services. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website provides resources for victims and survivors of domestic violence, including information on hotlines and national organizations.

Find the Right Trauma Therapist Near You

Get personalized matches

Use an online therapy platform.

Sometimes, finding a local therapist that fits your personal preferences and requirements can feel impossible. Whether you’re having trouble locating a local trauma therapist, juggling a hectic schedule, or feeling tired of long commutes, online therapy can help you access quality trauma treatment from the comfort of your own home.

Research shows that online trauma therapy is as effective as in-person therapy for individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you’re seeking treatment for a specific type of trauma, online therapy platforms can connect you with trauma counselors who have experience treating clients in similar situations. Some online therapists offer specific interventions for trauma treatment, including trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR).

Instead of spending weeks searching for the right therapist, setting up initial consultations, and scheduling your first therapy session, you can start the treatment process right away.

Supportive, Holistic Trauma Therapy

Whether you’re starting therapy for the first time or searching for a trauma-informed therapist, it’s crucial to find the right fit. Even though talking about your traumatic experience can feel uncomfortable, therapy should always feel like a safe, nonjudgmental space to confront your trauma. The right therapist can help you gain valuable insights into your mental health, understand your triggers, and start the healing process.
To find the right fit, reach out to a therapist through WithTherapy. We’ll connect you with a trauma therapist you feel comfortable with based on your personal preferences and requirements. One of the compassionate, experienced therapists on the WithTherapy platform will help you navigate your trauma and learn healthy coping strategies to move forward.

Find the Right Trauma Therapist Near You

Ready to find support and address your challenges? Schedule with a therapist uniquely matched to you.

WithTherapy

You’re at the heart of a reimagined therapist search platform.

Get Started

So you want to go for it, but you’re not sure how to go about it? Here’s the step by step.

Get Referrals

One good source of referrals can be people whose opinion you respect, whether that be a friend, clergy, doctor, or someone else. But take the referral with a grain of salt, because:

  • Not every good therapist is good at trauma therapy. And the person who makes the referral might not know how to tell which therapists are which.
  • Not every good therapist is good for you.
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Another source is listings. For example, you can find a listing of EMDR therapists at the EMDR International Association web site; it allows you to search by location, specialty areas, and level of credentialing (trained, certified, consultant). We also have a listing of therapists we’ve trained, whether in EMDR or PC, similarly searchable by location, specialty area, and level of credentialing.

While it’s no guarantee, you might as well start with those with higher credentials. Those who are certified in a treatment method have gone beyond the initial training to complete additional practice, consultation, and continuing education, so they are more likely to have gotten good at it. But don’t get too hung up on this, either – plenty of therapists who get good at something never bother to get the certification.

Similarly, the specialty areas the therapist lists are a beginning, but not the whole story. If the therapist says that they only work with adults and you want help for your five-year-old, this is probably not the right person. On the other hand, if the therapist says that they work with trauma but does not specify sexual assault (and that’s what you’re looking for help with), that doesn’t mean much. Pretty much all trauma therapists work with sexual assault, even if we don’t list every possible type of trauma as a specialty area. Similarly, many of us do work with couples and families even though we don’t list it as a specialty. Etc.

So if you’re lucky enough to be able to choose from a bunch of highly credentialed trauma therapists who declare expertise in your area of concern, that’s great. However, if it doesn’t line up that way, don’t despair. Just go ahead and check out the therapists who at least seem like they might work out. And you never know – they might.

If no one in your area is suitable, you might consider looking elsewhere. The short-term inconvenience can be worth it to get the help you need (as opposed to staying local and spinning your wheels with the wrong therapist). Perhaps there’s a good trauma therapist in a nearby city? Or you might prefer to travel for a one-time intensive multi-day treatment, to get the job done.

Interview the Therapists

When checking out therapists, it’s important to understand your position and to be empowered accordingly. You are the customer, trying to decide who to hire as your consultant and personal trainer. You have the right to shop around and ask questions – within reason – so you can make your best choice.

Interview the therapist on the phone. Explain your situation briefly (the 1-minute version) and ask: “ What is your training and experience in [trauma treatment, EMDR, PC, this type of problem…]?” And your next question, “How would you conduct treatment with someone like me?”

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Hearing the therapist’s responses will give you quite a bit of information, not only in what they say, but in how you feel as you hear it. Trust your knowledge, and trust your gut. Ask yourself:

  • Is this person trained, experienced, and competent with people in my situation?
  • Does this person care about me?  Respect me?
  • Can I trust this person?

Is this person really a trauma therapist?

One challenge in evaluating prospective therapists is that virtually every therapist claims to work with trauma, but not all therapists (a) use a phase model approach, (b) including a proven-effective method of trauma healing. So how to discern this?

It’s easy enough to find out if they’re using a research-supported trauma treatment: ask. My favorites are PC, EMDR, and TIR – they’re effective, well tolerated, and efficient – and with rare exceptions I only refer (for trauma work) to a therapist who is using one of these. It’s not that a good therapist can’t get the job done with (for example) prolonged exposure or trauma-focused CBT – they can – but it’ll be slower, and more difficult for the client. Some therapists I respect are using promising trauma treatments like emotional freedom therapy or somatic experiencing, and these may indeed be good; but at present they’re not well researched, so I do not endorse them yet.

As to whether or not the therapist uses a phase model approach — the current standard of care for trauma therapy — here are the kinds of things to be listening for, in terms of what the therapist says they are trying to do/accomplish in treatment:

Good

  • Motivation (develop/identify the client’s goals)
  • Psycho-education/understanding the impact of trauma
  • Stabilization and safety
  • Coping skills
  • Trauma resolution

Bad

  • Follow the client’s lead
  • Focus on relationship
  • Whatever the client is ready for
  • Working intuitively
  • Caring/supportive/listening

If your initial reaction is, “Why are all those good things listed in the Bad section?” you’re not alone; a lot of therapists do work that way. But being warm and fuzzy does not get the trauma healing done. For that, you need a therapist who will take you through the steps (listed in the Good section above) of the phase model, including the trauma healing. Don’t worry: a good trauma therapist is caring and supportive, too. They should also have the tough-love quality of a personal trainer, to guide and encourage you through the hard places so you can get through, and come out the other side.

Go

So you found a therapist that you still think is promising, even after the phone call? Go ahead and make an appointment, and then show up for it. And this isn’t necessarily the final step. If you learn, through meeting, that this is the wrong person for you, you don’t have to go back (but do at least cancel the next appointment, if you’ve made one). If the therapist seems good enough, it’s generally best to stop shopping around at that point, so you can dig in and start getting your work done.

Note: This post is excerpted, in modified form, from my upcoming book, Slaying the Dragon: Overcoming Life’s Challenges and Getting To Your Goals.

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