Choosing a Therapist and Getting the Most out of Counseling After a Burn Injury
by Megan Bronson, PMHCNS-BC
Healing and recovering from the psychological, emotional, and social impact of a burn injury takes time and also social support. Finding safe people to support you on that journey is essential. For many survivors, the programs and resources provided by Phoenix Society meet that need. In addition, others may want and need to find an individual counselor to assist them on that journey.
Choosing a Therapist
Seek assistance from your burn center or physician in finding a therapist who has experience in treating trauma-related symptoms and who is comfortable with this. It is preferable that the therapist has been trained in trauma theory and specific interventions such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing). Therapists in your area who are certified in these techniques can be found on the websites listed.
Consider interviewing counselors before you commit to an ongoing process with a therapist. Choose a therapist who you feel comfortable with and who you feel you can trust and be honest with. An effective therapist provides a safe space for you to heal and recover and explore not only the effects of trauma but ways to move forward. An ethical therapist will not judge you, shame you, or push you to deal with more than you are ready to but will also not help you avoid issues that need to be addressed in order for healing to happen.
If you are not making reasonable progress or if the therapist just isn’t a good fit for you, consider changing therapists.
Getting the most out of Counseling
Be an active participant in your therapy. Ask questions, set goals, and develop a plan of action that includes evaluating progress toward your personal, relationship, life and recovery goals.
Therapy for trauma related symptoms and traumatic loss often requires going through uncomfortable emotions. It may require a few sessions before you begin to feel some relief from symptoms. Be patient with yourself and focus on small gains—they all add up over time.
If your therapist gives you homework assignments between sessions, be sure to follow up on these—their purpose is to help reinforce what you are learning in therapy and to practice new communication, coping, and life skills.
Just as with physical recovery, recovery from the emotional and psychological trauma of a burn injury does not happen without effort. Challenge yourself to take risks and to learn and try out new skills in relationships and life.
Trauma effects an entire family and your family members may want to seek help as well. It is often helpful to do some work as a couple with your significant other or spouse and in time with the entire family present. It is beneficial for children to be part of family sessions as well.
With helpful and supportive people and resources you can recover and reclaim your life after a burn injury and go on to live a full, happy and meaningful life.