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What do trauma counselors do?

Trauma therapists are mental health professionals who specialize in working with individuals who have experienced trauma. Though different trauma therapists rely on different techniques, their general role is to help you understand the trauma and make sense of your responses to it; recognize and manage the often painful feelings, such as guilt or shame, triggered by the trauma; and identify coping mechanisms that can help you respond more adaptively to future symptoms or to trauma-related challenges.

Who can diagnose PTSD?

A trained mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or neuropsychologist can diagnose someone with PTSD. A primary care physician may do an initial screening to determine if symptoms of PTSD such as intrusive thoughts, avoidance behaviors, and hyperarousal are present; if so, they will often refer a patient to a mental health clinician for further evaluation and treatment.

What is the best type of therapy for PTSD?

Psychotherapy has proven to be an effective treatment for PTSD. Prolonged exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, or trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy are often recommended, as they aim to rebuild cognitive flexibility—which is often weakened after a serious trauma—and reduce the emotional sting of the traumatic memory.

Can you overcome trauma with therapy?

Yes; with therapy, it is possible to restore normal functioning and reduce—or in some cases eliminate—trauma-related symptoms such as anger, guilt, insomnia, flashbacks, and hypervigilance. Because the traumatic event cannot be undone, there is no “cure” for trauma, and no treatment is guaranteed to eliminate symptoms for good. However, therapy can help you build resilience and identify coping skills that you can make use of if symptoms reoccur in the future, greatly lessening their impact.