What is Trauma? Part 3

Christy and Tammy have done an excellent job explaining trauma and focusing on the physical, mental, and emotional effects from it. Today we will focus on when to know it's time to get help for trauma.

How to Know It's Time to Get Help

Everyone can experience some sort of trauma in their life. It's hard to know when to get help and often when  traumatic acts occur, it feels shameful to get help. Unfortunately though, the longer you wait to get professional help with trauma, the more re-traumatized people become and the worse the symptoms get. So how do you know when it requires professional help?

See if you have the following:

  • Flashbacks- where your mind literal sees it again like a movie and it is either triggered by something or comes out of nowhere
  • Reoccurring nightmares
  • Intense memories that induce terror
  • Depression
  • Fears that maybe weren't there before
  • Anxiety (often over things you never worried about before)
  • Difficulty having close relationships with others
  • Difficulty functioning in activities such as work or home life
  • Avoiding anything that might trigger the trauma (if something happened at school- avoiding school)
  • Coping with alcohol or drugs, food (overeating or restricting), spending, gambling
  • Feeling distant from others and noticing you might be pulling away when nothing is wrong in the relationship
  • Being over reactive to others
  • Being irritable and not sure why

These are the most common but certainly aren't exclusive of when you might need help from a professional. So who do you turn to?

Finding Professional Help for Trauma

The most important part of getting help for your trauma is finding GOOD help. You could get re-traumatized by your therapy if you don't get someone who knows how to handle trauma.

Here are some tips for how to know who to choose a good therapist:

When you call to make an appointment, ask them specifically what kind of trauma they have treated in the past and have they had any specific training for it. Many therapists say they've dealt with trauma, and they probably have. But you want someone who specializes in it and has been trained.

The relationship between therapist and client is equally important. When you first meet with a therapist, how did you feel? Listen to that. If you didn't feel good, pinpoint what it was that made you feel uncomfortable. They must have the following qualities:

  1. Safety- When you spoke to them, did you feel you could trust them? Were they warm and caring? You may not feel this right away but did you get the sense at some point you could trust them?
  2. Validation-Did they ever try to talk you out of what you were feeling or your experience? Or did they listen and validate what you were saying?
  3. Did they show warmth, care, compassion for what you went through?
  4. Did they respect you?
  5. Did you feel like they were able to grasp what you were telling them or did they seem overwhelmed by your experience? If they felt overwhelmed, perhaps they don't have the training needed for trauma.

If you went one or two times and it doesn't feel right, don't waste your time going back. Try someone else. Many people stay with the wrong therapist because they feel like they are invested already after a couple sessions. Trust us, you are getting much more investment by taking the small loss to gain more ground later.

Tomorrow Joleen will talk about specific treatment for trauma. Thank you for reading!

Written by Natalie Chandler

Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC LCAC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling. We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville