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Questions to ask a trauma therapist

There are many things to consider when choosing a therapist. Some practical issues are location, cost, and what insurance the therapist accepts. Other issues include the therapist’s background, training, and the way he or she works with people.

Your therapist should explain the therapy, how long treatment is expected to last, and how to tell if it is working. The information below can help you choose a therapist who is right for you.

Questions to ask before therapy

Here is a list of questions you may want to ask a possible therapist:

  1. What is your education? Are you licensed? How many years have you been practicing?
  2. What are your special areas of practice?
  3. Have you ever worked with people who have been through trauma? Do you have any special training in PTSD treatment?
  4. What kinds of PTSD treatments do you use? Have they been proven effective for dealing with my kind of problem or issue? How much therapy would you recommend?
  5. Do you prescribe medications?
  6. What are your fees? (Fees are usually based on a 45-minute to 50-minute session.) Do you have any discounted fees?
  7. What types of insurance do you accept? Do you file insurance claims? Do you contract with any managed care organizations? Do you accept Medicare or Medicaid insurance?

These questions are just guidelines. In the end, your choice of a therapist will be based on many factors. Think about your comfort with the person as well as his or her qualifications and experience treating PTSD. And keep in mind the importance of evidence-based, trauma-focused treatments like Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Prolonged Exposure (PE), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

Paying for therapy

If you have health insurance, check to see what mental health services are covered. Medicare, Medicaid, and most major health plans typically cover a certain number of mental health counseling sessions per year. Note that you may have a small additional amount you will have to pay, called a co-payment (or co-pay). Call your insurance company to see what they cover so you won’t be surprised by a big bill.

If you don’t have health insurance that will cover your therapy, you may still be able to get counseling, even if you can’t afford to pay full price. Many community mental health centers have sliding scales that base your fee on what you are able to pay.

Making your therapy a good “fit”

In PTSD treatment, or any mental health therapy, you work together with your therapist to get better. A good “fit” between a therapist and a patient can make a difference. You will want to choose a therapist you are comfortable with so that you can get better. This means you should feel like you can ask questions that help you understand treatment and your progress in therapy.

The most effective PTSD treatments are time-limited, usually lasting 10-12 weeks. If you are not getting better or if you feel your therapist is not a good fit for you, look for someone else to work with. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find just the right therapist. This is not unusual and your therapist should be understanding. If you are getting treatment at the VA, a patient advocate can help you if this issue arises.

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Trauma therapists are mental health professionals who work with patients who have experienced traumatic events. These events can include natural disasters, car accidents, military combat, or physical or sexual abuse. Trauma therapists help patients process their experiences and work through the emotions they are feeling.

If you’re interested in becoming a trauma therapist, you will need to go through an interview process. During the interview, you will be asked a variety of questions about your experience, your qualifications, and your approach to therapy. In this guide, we will provide you with a list of trauma therapist interview questions and answers to help you prepare for your interview.

Are you comfortable working with patients who have experienced trauma?

Interviewers may ask this question to determine if you have the emotional intelligence and compassion necessary to work with trauma patients. They want to know that you are able to empathize with your patients and provide them with a safe space to share their experiences. In your answer, try to show that you understand what it’s like to be in your patient’s position and how you would use your skills to help them feel comfortable and supported.

Example: “I am very empathetic by nature, so I can relate to my patients’ feelings of fear, anxiety or sadness. As a therapist, I believe it is important to create a safe environment where patients can express themselves without judgment. I also think it’s vital to listen carefully to each patient’s story and validate their emotions.”

What are some of the most effective ways to help patients who have experienced trauma?

This question can help interviewers understand your approach to therapy and how you might apply it in their facility. In your answer, try to describe a few of the most important techniques you use with patients and why they’re effective.

Example: “I believe that one of the most important things I do as a trauma therapist is listen to my patients without judgment. When someone has experienced something traumatic, they need an empathetic ear who will allow them to express themselves freely. Another thing I do is validate their feelings and experiences. By letting them know that what happened to them was not their fault, I can help them feel more comfortable talking about their experience.”

How would you handle a patient who is not making progress with your treatment plan?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your ability to recognize when a patient is not improving and how you respond. In your answer, try to demonstrate that you are willing to take responsibility for the success of your patients’ treatment plans and will work with them to find solutions if they’re not making progress.

Example: “If I notice that a patient isn’t responding well to my treatment plan, I would first evaluate whether there was anything I could do differently in our sessions. If I couldn’t think of any changes I could make, I would discuss it with the patient and their family to see what they thought might help. Sometimes, simply talking through the issue can help us figure out a solution.”

What is your process for documenting your work as a trauma therapist?

The interviewer may ask this question to learn about your organizational skills and how you keep track of important information. Your answer should include a specific example of how you documented your work in the past, such as using software or keeping hard copies of your notes.

Example: “I use a digital note-taking app that allows me to take photos of my client’s medical records and other documents I need to reference during our sessions. This helps me stay organized and ensures I have all relevant information at my fingertips when needed. In addition, I also maintain hard copies of my notes so that I can refer back to them later if necessary.”

Provide an example of a time when you had to help a patient who was experiencing PTSD.

This question can help interviewers understand how you apply your skills to help patients. When answering this question, it can be helpful to describe a specific situation and the steps you took to help the patient overcome their symptoms.

Example: “I once worked with a patient who experienced PTSD after being in an accident. The patient was experiencing nightmares and flashbacks that were preventing them from living a normal life. I helped the patient create a plan for overcoming these symptoms by teaching them relaxation techniques and encouraging them to practice these exercises at home. After several sessions, the patient reported they were able to manage their symptoms.”

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If a patient was experiencing abuse, how would you ensure their privacy and safety?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your ability to maintain confidentiality and ensure the safety of patients. In your answer, explain how you would keep information private while also ensuring that a patient is safe from their abuser.

Example: “I have worked with many patients who experienced abuse in some form. I always make sure they feel comfortable talking about their experiences without fear of judgment or retribution. If a patient tells me they are experiencing abuse, I will help them develop a plan for staying safe. For example, if a patient told me their partner was abusing them, I would help them create an emergency plan so they can leave safely if their partner becomes aggressive again.”

What would you do if you suspected a patient was lying about their trauma?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your ability to recognize when patients are not being truthful about their trauma. They want to know that you can handle these situations without compromising the patient’s safety or confidentiality. In your answer, explain how you would approach the situation and what steps you would take to ensure the patient is safe while also protecting their privacy.

Example: “If I suspected a patient was lying about their trauma, I would first try to get them to open up by asking more questions about their story. If they still refused to tell me the truth, I would have a private conversation with my supervisor to discuss our options. We would then decide together whether it was in the patient’s best interest to call the police.”

How well do you understand the different types of trauma?

The interviewer may ask this question to assess your knowledge of the different types of trauma and how you can apply that knowledge in a clinical setting. Use examples from your experience working with clients who have experienced different types of trauma, such as physical or emotional abuse, natural disasters or war-related events.

Example: “I believe there are three main types of trauma—emotional, physical and sexual. Each type has its own symptoms and triggers, which is why it’s important for me to understand my client’s history so I can help them overcome their challenges. For example, one of my previous clients was sexually abused by her father when she was young. She had difficulty trusting men because of those experiences, but through therapy, we were able to work on overcoming her fears.”

Do you have experience working with children who have experienced trauma?

Interviewers may ask this question to see if you have experience working with a specific type of client. If you do, they may want to know how your previous experiences can help you succeed in this role. If you don’t have experience working with children who experienced trauma, explain what types of clients you’ve worked with and why those experiences are relevant.

Example: “I haven’t had the opportunity to work specifically with children who experienced trauma, but I have worked with many different types of clients. In my last position, I worked as a therapist for adults who experienced physical and emotional trauma. I learned that no matter the age or gender of the client, there are some universal truths about trauma. I understand that it’s important to create a safe space where people feel comfortable opening up about their experiences.”

When working with a group of patients, how do you ensure everyone’s privacy?

Privacy is an important consideration for many patients. Employers ask this question to make sure you understand the importance of privacy and how to maintain it in your work as a trauma therapist. In your answer, explain that you would create individual treatment plans for each patient so they can receive care without anyone else knowing their personal information.

Example: “I am very aware of the need for privacy when working with patients. I always ensure that my notes are confidential and never leave them unattended. When working with a group of patients, I also create individualized treatment plans for each person so they can receive care without any other patients knowing about their private information.”

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We want to improve our trauma therapy program. What new practices would you add?

This question can help interviewers understand your innovative thinking and how you would improve the quality of their program. Use examples from your experience to explain what new practices you would implement, such as:

New treatment methodsTraining for staff membersAdditional resources for patientsExample: “I would add a mindfulness practice to our trauma therapy program because it has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety in patients. I would also train all therapists on this method so they could use it with their patients. Another thing I would do is create an online forum where patients can connect with each other after leaving the hospital. This way, they have a support system when they’re at home.”

Describe your process for building trust with a new patient.

When working with trauma patients, it’s important to establish trust early on in the treatment process. This helps your patient feel safe and comfortable while they’re sharing their experiences. A hiring manager may ask this question to learn more about how you build relationships with others. In your answer, try to describe a specific technique or strategy that you use to help your patients feel at ease.

Example: “When I first meet a new patient, I always make sure to greet them warmly. I shake their hand and introduce myself by name. Then, I take a seat next to them so we can have an open conversation. I also let them know that I’m here for them and will do whatever I can to support them during their recovery. By being friendly and genuine from the start, I’ve found that my patients are usually willing to share more of themselves.”

What makes you stand out from other trauma therapists?

This question can help interviewers understand what makes you unique as a trauma therapist. They may ask this to see if your skills and experience are different from other therapists they’ve worked with in the past. When answering, think about what sets you apart from others in the field. Consider mentioning any certifications or special training you have that make you unique.

Example: “I believe my compassion for patients is what makes me stand out from other trauma therapists. I always try to put myself in their shoes when working with them so I can better understand how they’re feeling. This helps me create a safe space where they feel comfortable opening up to me. Another thing that makes me unique is my ability to remain calm during intense situations. My previous work experience has taught me how to stay focused even when things get tough.”

Which types of therapy do you prefer to perform?

This question can help the interviewer determine your level of experience and comfort with different types of therapy. You should highlight any specialties you have, such as working with children or veterans, to show that you are qualified for this role.

Example: “I prefer to work one-on-one with clients because I find it’s more effective than group sessions. However, I am comfortable leading a group if necessary. In my previous position, I worked primarily with adults who were recovering from trauma. I also performed family counseling when needed.”

What do you think is the most important part of your job as a trauma therapist?

This question can help interviewers understand what you value about your work and how you approach it. Your answer should reflect the skills, knowledge and experience that make you a good trauma therapist. You might also consider mentioning any personal traits or values that have helped you succeed in this role.

Example: “I think the most important part of my job is helping patients feel safe and secure. I know from experience that feeling safe is an essential part of healing from trauma. When I first started working as a trauma therapist, I was nervous about whether I could really help people feel safe. However, after learning more about different techniques for creating a safe space, I realized that I had all the tools I needed to do so.”

How often would you perform progress checks with patients?

Interviewers may ask this question to learn more about your approach to therapy. They want to know how often you check in with patients and what you do during these progress checks. In your answer, explain that you perform regular progress checks with all of your patients. Explain that you believe it’s important to regularly monitor a patient’s progress so you can adjust their treatment plan as needed.

Example: “I believe it’s very important to regularly check in with my patients to see how they’re feeling and if there are any changes in their mental health. I usually perform progress checks once every two weeks or so. During the check-in, I ask them how they’ve been feeling since our last session. I also ask them about any challenges they’ve faced recently and how they overcame those challenges.”

There is a patient who is struggling with their trauma therapy. How would you approach them?

This question can help interviewers understand how you interact with patients and their unique needs. Your answer should show that you are empathetic, patient and compassionate when working with your patients.

Example: “I would first ask the patient what they think is holding them back from making progress in therapy. I believe it’s important to listen to my patients and hear what they have to say about their own experiences. If a patient tells me they’re struggling because of something I said or did, I will apologize and make sure to avoid making the same mistake again. I also encourage my patients to be honest with me if they feel like I’m not being helpful during sessions.”