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Can a therapist actually help you? How can you know for sure?

In this brief post, I will give you some questions to ask that will help you determine if your therapist is skilled enough to tackle your case and help you move beyond what is bothering you, enabling you to live a fuller life. Then, if your case is all or in part trauma-specific, and you are considering an EMDR therapist, some things to know about that, and questions to has him or her.

Ask ANY therapist:

1. Has the therapist ever been in therapy? How long?

2. How does the therapist define "mental health"? And, if applicable, how does the therapist define a healthy marriage?

3. What therapies is the therapist formally trained and experienced in (from school or as post-graduate work) that can help you, specifically?

4. How many times has the therapist treated a case like yours? If you have an issue with trauma, you want the answer to be "daily."

5. What does the therapist think about religion and the role of religion in the healing of mental health? (Most LMFT's will be very open about this one because it's part of our training.)

6. What state license does the therapist have? If they are still in training, who is their supervisor and how often do they meet? (Make sure he or she is a real therapist.)

7. What graduate school did the therapist attend? What accreditation does that school have? (There are a lot of really low quality online degrees out there that one simply pays for.)

These questions will help you determine at a basic level whether the therapist is skilled enough to help you.

If you are seeking an EMDR therapist, ask the therapist:

1. Is the therapist EMDRIA Trained or EMDRIA Certified? (If you have multiple traumatic events that need treatment, you want someone Certified--this is a much more extensive level of training.)

2. Is the therapist trained in any special uses of EMDR (requiring training beyond Certification) that apply to your case, such as dissociation, very recent trauma, early childhood trauma, depression, OCD, pain management.

NOTE: If the EMDR therapist did not ask about these issues, especially dissociation (and explain it to you), get someone else.

3. What sort of preparation does the therapist use before starting EMDR? How long does it take? (If a therapist uses no preparation, or only a session or two, get someone else, especially if you have complicated trauma.)

4. OPTIONAL QUESTION: Is the therapist an EMDRIA Approved Consultant or a Facilitator affiliated with a training organization such as EMDR-HAP? (Both of these things reflect the highest level of training and commitment.)

Hopefully, these questions can assist you as you choose someone to walk with you on your journey to mental well-being. There are many deficiencies in the field of mental health professions. Training is often inconsistent, inadequate, and no more than a piece of paper. Unfortunately this is true of EMDR practitioners as well, although not as often--same thing with LMFT's: better chance, but no guarantee. That's my opinion of course.

More importantly, ask what's on your mind, using these questions as a starting place. The best indicator of a bad therapist is someone whom you feel did not really listen to you, or someone who doesn't seem to take feedback very well. A good therapist should appreciate even the harshest feedback.

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