I don't know what to ask when I'm interviewing a therapist.
It’s difficult to begin a search for a therapist even when you have had psychotherapy support before. Interviewing clinicians in your quest to find someone with whom you feel comfortable and who demonstrates expertise for your specific concerns is essential. This step is important for all types of issues or presenting concerns, but is vital for someone with Complex Trauma (or C-PTSD).
But what else might such a consultation entail?
A conversation with a client earlier this week, an astute and articulate young woman, helped shed light on this question. She was speaking about some previous therapy experiences: what worked and what didn’t, how she knew the therapist had the requisite skill set for her concerns -- and then about times she knew straight away that a therapist was not for her.
I know it’s not right when a therapist is too fascinated by my trauma story.
It feels like disaster tourism.
Disaster tourism? The understanding of what she meant hit me in the way any sudden insight brings that “aha!” moment of clarity.
Disaster tourism can be understood as the practice of visiting environmental or man-made disasters in order to observe but not necessarily to help. So, in other words, the client noted that when a therapist treated her like a disaster area and engaged with her in a way that felt voyeuristic rather than empathic, she knew that it was a poor fit.
She coined the phrase “trauma tourism” and we agreed that therapists who engage in trauma tourism ought to get some more training or not work with survivors of PTSD or C-PTSD at all.
I’ve been thinking about our conversation since we met. Clients’ perspectives often enrich my own, and in this case our discussion about trauma tourism has helped me to articulate two questions that might be helpful to ask yourself during a consultation meeting:
· Do I feel the therapist is more interested in the details of my story than in me?
· Do I have autonomy in the initial session to determine the pace of the details I disclose?
There are, of course, other questions to ask in an initial meeting about therapist experience, theoretical orientation, cost, or scheduling. But the two questions above can guide your evaluation of your comfort level and serve as the starting point to begin your assessment.