Friday, October 1, 2021

Finding the Right Therapist for You


I want to take a moment to talk to you about how not every therapist is the right therapist for you.

Having a therapist we can trust is an important cornerstone for social support network, and it is vital to our recovery from PTSD and moral injury. In counseling, this is called the therapeutic relationship, and it is incredibly important.

Healing from PTSD requires radical authenticity on our part and skill and expertise on the part of our therapist. It may take a while to find the right therapist for you, and that's okay. It doesn't mean that you are beyond help.

In 2008 when I was at my worst with my own PTSD, I was command-directed to see a psychiatrist. This was at a military treatment facility and the psychiatrist was a white male colonel. I was suicidal, vulnerable, and frankly, I was desperate. I didn't understand what was happening to me and I believed that I was going crazy. I talked with this psychiatrist for the better part of an hour, and then he said to me, "Virginia there's nothing I can do to help you if you can't be honest with me." I was bewildered. He then qualified his statement by saying, "women don't serve in combat and I can't help you if you're not telling me the truth."

I wish I were making this up. I was labeled with a personality disorder and my experience was completely dismissed. This took a terrible situation and made it worse.

I'm not sharing this story with you for pity; I'm sharing it for awareness. After I became a therapist myself, I found that the experience of being belittled and dismissed is more common than I could have imagined, especially for female military members, persons of color, and those who identify as part of the queer community. Even in the current environment of me too and racial reckoning, clients have reported to me that they have not been believed when they reported their experience during active service or after, even with a therapist. 

And I want to be very clear: that is absolutely not okay. There is no excuse for this behavior from a mental health professional. 

Jennifer Freyd, with the University of Oregon, researches and writes about institutional betrayal and I recommend her work to learn more about this. 

But I say all that to say this: some therapists are unprofessional or simply not good at their jobs. I'm not trying to be ugly; it is what it is. 

If a mental health professional chooses not to believe your experience, that probably says a lot more about them than it does about you. And I know the outcome can be devastating. 

I encourage you to advocate for yourself and keep leaning forward so that you can get the help you deserve to reclaim your life.

We've created a Free Workbook to help you identify your symptoms so that you can make an informed decision to reclaim your life from PTSD and Moral Injury.

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