Training and Experience
Your therapist should be trained in relevant specialty areas and have experience actively working in their field. It’s not enough for someone to have a degree in psychology – they should be a seasoned professional with experience working with trauma survivors. Look for key words like “trauma,” “PTSD,” or “sexual abuse” on therapist listings and websites.
To ensure that these keywords are backed up by real-world experience, look for professional credentials and education details on therapist websites and related listings. If a therapist does not list their credentials, reach out and ask or search for a different therapist. If a therapist is not willing to share with you about their credentials and experience, take this as a red flag.
Empathy and Compassion
Beyond formal training and experience, your trauma therapist should also be empathetic and compassionate from the start. Give yourself permission to use first impressions to guide you in your decision-making process around this. If a therapist does not clearly communicate empathy and compassion for your situation from your first meeting or conversation, consider taking your search elsewhere.
Being a good listener is an essential skill of an effective therapist or counsellor. But active listening doesn’t just involve sitting there silently while a client talks. It also involves conveying sustained attention through eye contact (if this feels comfortable for the client), nodding, expressing compassion or mirrored emotions through facial expressions, and asking follow-up questions.
If you notice that your therapist seems preoccupied or is talking more than listening during an initial phone call or session, this may be a bad sign.