Finding The Right Therapist For Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

By: Sarah Fader

Updated October 21, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers

If you're living with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, it's important to know that you are not alone. There is hope and help for this condition. This article will cover how to find the right therapist to begin your healing process toward a healthy, fulfilling life.

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What Can I Do For My C-PTSD?

You might be wondering what you can do to cope with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. One of the best ways to manage C-PTSD is awareness, and you can find that emotional insight by seeing a licensed therapist who specializes in trauma and recovery. It's one thing to go to therapy, and another to see a mental health provider who deals explicitly with trauma and recovery. When you have C-PTSD, you want to see a provider who has experience treating clients who have been through traumatic experiences like you have endured. They will understand how to help you address the trauma and start learning coping techniques. You may be wondering what some coping strategies for C-PTSD are?

Coping strategies can be divided into three categories:

  • Distraction - This is a coping technique where the individual engages in an activity that distracts them from their pain or discomfort.
  • Soothing - When a person engages in an activity to calm themselves during a triggering episode.
  • Balancing - When you're balancing to cope, it involves using logic rather than emotion. You assess the situation and see what practical action you can take to help yourself. Maybe that's means to reach out to your therapist for help. Perhaps it's a grounding exercise to bring you back from the beginning signs of a panic attack.

These are a few of the coping skills that a person with C-PTSD can use to cope with their illness. We're going to go into detail about other signs of C-PTSD later in the article.

Many People Live Well With C-PTSD

According to the American Psychological Association, most people will experience trauma in their lives. Additionally, approximately 5.2 million Americans between the ages of 18 to 54 (around 3.6 percent of people in this age group each year) have PTSD. Millions of Americans have not only experienced trauma but have been given the diagnosis of PTSD. If you're among those living with C-PTSD, you are among millions of others; you're not alone, others are struggling to handle their trauma along with you. And there are also millions of people who successfully get the help they need through therapy and medication.

It can help to have a reliable support system of friends and family to talk to about your trauma, but there is only so much your loved ones can do about your trauma. When it comes down to it, you need to address what happened to you to heal. One of the best ways to do that is in therapy, whether that's online or in your local area. There are several kinds of therapy that work for PTSD, but one of the most effective is EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. In EMDR, the client follows their therapist's fingers back and forth and thinks of a painful memory associated with their trauma. After doing this, they close their eyes and let their mind wander. The mind wanders and begins to process the trauma that the person has experienced. They finally begin to confront the trauma in a safe space with a trusted therapist, whether that person is online or in a traditional face-to-face setting. There's also trauma-focused therapy, where the client works with a trusted mental health professional to delve into the trauma and learn coping strategies for panic, anxiety, and depression that have resulted from the trauma. Many other forms of therapy can help survivors of trauma, and we will discuss them later on in the article.

BetterHelp Wants You to Heal From Trauma

The online therapists at BetterHelp have a personal stake in your healing from your trauma. When you meet with an online counselor who specializes in trauma and recovery, you can be sure that you're safe. You can feel comfortable speaking your truth and starting to process what you've been through in your life. The excellent counselors at BetterHelp aren't here to judge, but rather help you treat your scars and traumatic experiences. Once you work through that trauma, you develop a plan to start healing and living a fulfilling life. C-PTSD is a severe mental health issue, but it's highly treatable with therapy, and online counseling is an excellent option.

Don't be afraid to reach out for help from an online therapist for your trauma. You're not the only one that has been through some hard life experiences. BetterHelp understands how painful trauma can be. The online counselors here at BetterHelp are dedicated to supporting you through your mental health journey and will let you go at your own pace. There's no timeline on healing from trauma, and your counselor understands this. You can take all the time in the world to sort through your concerns. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors.

Counselor Reviews

"Rebecca is very friendly and supportive. She is a great listener and provides awesome feed back and goals for every session. She is helping me dig through some very serious issues and address the under lining trauma causing those issues. I would definitely recommend her, as well as the BetterHelp platform!"

"I have only been working with Danielle a short time, but her help has been invaluable to me as I have been through one of the most difficult times and transitions of my life. As a trauma survivor who struggles at times to make sense of life, Danielle has been a beacon of light, hope and encouragement. I have found the online platform to be, surprisingly, a very workable avenue for receiving professional support. Danielle has a true gift for compassionate listening and offers wonderful support and suggestions for moving through painful life situations."

Click Here To Match With A Counselor You Can Trust

When treating Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the patient needs to see a therapist who they can trust. Every person needs to be able to feel safe and comfortable with their therapist, but it is particularly important for those with complex post-traumatic stress disorder. If you're living with C-PTSD, you can take the time to search for a therapist who makes you feel safe. It might seem like an impossible thing to do if you suffer from C-PTSD. You may feel that opening up to anyone could trigger you, but finding the right therapist for complex post-traumatic stress disorder is possible.

What Is C-PTSD?

C-PTSD or complex post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition that is like PTSD. The difference between PTSD and C-PTSD is the cause that led to the development of the disorder. These two psychological disorders have many of the same symptoms, but different reasons that led to the disorder will help a trained psychology professional make a diagnosis.

C-PTSD is a psychological disorder that develops from prolonged mental and physical trauma. Repeated trauma that causes harm and/or abandonment by an intimate caregiver and situations wherein the individual is helpless, trapped, either physically, mentally, or both, can leave the individual with severe physical and mental problems.

This disorder is not yet listed in the DMV-5 but it is under consideration. Complex post-traumatic stress disorder is recognized by many psychology professionals and it is understood as having different causes and symptoms than PTSD. Many psychology journals have already published information about complex post-traumatic stress disorder further separating it from PTSD.


What Are the Symptoms of C-PTSD?

The symptoms of C-PTSD involve physical and mental problems. Children and adolescents with this disorder exhibit different symptoms than adults. The symptoms differ from PTSD because the diagnosis of PTSD was developed to explain the symptoms of adults who have had a single traumatizing life event. Those with complex post-traumatic stress disorder have suffered from multiple repeated traumatizing life events.

Here is a tentative list of symptoms for children and adolescents with C-PTSD:

  • Cognitive problems such as difficulty processing new information, problems with executive functions such as planning and self-monitoring
  • Attachment problems such as lack of empathy, lack of trust, problems with relationship boundaries, and social isolation
  • Emotional problems such as difficulty regulating, identifying, and expressing emotions
  • Disassociation problems such as amnesia and memory/recall of specific events
  • Behavioral problems such as aggression, self-soothing and impulsiveness
  • Physical/biological problems such as sleep disturbances, sensory-motor development, sensory integration, and pronounced medical problems

The following is a list of symptoms for adults with C-PTSD:

  • Emotional problems such as difficulty regulating emotions, suicidal thoughts, explosive or inhibited anger
  • Consciousness problems such as lost memory of traumatic events, reliving experiences of traumatic events, disassociation, mental preoccupation with traumatic events
  • Feelings of helplessness, shame, guilt, a sense of being different than others, feelings of defilement
  • Problems with relationships such as isolation, withdrawal, lack of trust
  • Psychotic problems, breaks with reality

There are more symptoms not listed here. The importance of finding the right therapist for complex post-traumatic stress disorder should not be ignored. If you or someone you love suffers from C-PTSD, there is help. The right therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist can make a remarkable difference and provide the tools needed to overcome this disorder and find peace.

Finding the Right Therapist for Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The right therapist will make a world of difference for anyone who suffers from C-PTSD. Finding the right therapist can be a struggle if you don't understand what a good therapist is. The following is a list of tips that will help you or a loved one find that perfect psychology professional:

  • Look for a professional who is experienced in the best treatments for C-PTSD:
    • CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy
    • CPT or cognitive processing therapy
    • PE or prolonged exposure therapy
    • EMDR or eye movement desensitizing and reprocessing
    • Evidence-based medications
  • Find out if the professional you are interested in has experience with C-PTSD
  • Make sure the professional is licensed
  • Find out if your insurance is accepted
  • Ask questions before you decide
    • What is your education and are you licensed?
    • Can you prescribe medications?
    • What kinds of treatment do you provide?
    • Do you have any specialty areas?
    • Have you treated patients with this condition before?



Can someone with PTSD fall in love?

Of course they can. Someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) isn't incapable of loving someone; they've experienced a traumatic event and simply have a hard time dealing with it. They love just as much as anyone else does.

With that said, people with PTSD can feel unloveable. Their traumatic experience and traumatic memories can cause panic attacks and lead to fearing many things that most would find harmless. If you love someone with PTSD, it's important that you are patient, understanding, and are actively helping your partner to treat their symptoms of PTSD. While PTSD symptoms are complex, and treating symptoms of PTSD is a tough journey, together, two people can do it.

With that said, some people with PTSD may avoid relationships or have trouble forming a connection, but that's not the case all of the time. There are many who are in relationships and are able to have one that lasts a long time.

Is Complex PTSD a disability?

Just like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD,) complex PTSD can be considered a disability as well as a mental disorder. If one's PTSD affects their ability to live a full, productive life, it can cause them to apply for disability.

What is complex PTSD vs PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD sound like similar issues, and they are. However, PTSD and complex PTSD are quite different, and we'll explain what they are.


PTSD usually refers to one traumatic event. For example, someone was in a car crash, was assaulted, tr had another event happened to them that only happened once. It can be childhood trauma or trauma in your adult years. When you experience a traumatic event, it can cause quite a bit of psychological stress, and it can lead to various anxiety and other mental health problems. Learning the common symptoms of PTSD, seeking treatment for PTSD, learning your triggers, and working with a therapist can help you with your symptoms of PTD and help you to live a better life.

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD involves repeated trauma or prolonged trauma. For example, you fought in a war for years and have seen death and destruction. Or, you were in an abusive relationship for a long time. People with complex PTSD may have had childhood trauma. Some people with complex PTSD may have had various, unrelated events happen in their life, and they may not only feel traumatized, but feel like they're bad luck.

Complex PTSD is a newer label, and the symptoms of PTSD are quite similar to complex PTSD symptoms . But for people with complex PTSD, the emotions, episodes, and triggers may be much more intense. In order to treat PTSD that is complex, the long-term trauma can take longer to cope with. Short-term trauma may be easier to recover from, but not easy, but long-term trauma could take years.

Is C PTSD a personality disorder?

CPTSD is not a personality disorder, but there are many disorders that can be caused by CPTSD. Disorders that can come from complex PTSD include an anxiety disorder, for example. You may have an intense anxiety disorder that makes it difficult for you to get out of the house. People with CPTSD could have borderline personality disorder, too.

Is C PTSD worse than PTSD?

PTSD is a type of mental disorder that is hard to treat, as everyone responds differently to trauma. It can be hard to forget trauma and move on from it. When you have multiple traumas, or long-term trauma, it can be much harder to treat. In most cases, CPTSD is much harder to treat and the symptoms can be much more intense. There are many symptoms of common PTSD, including the fact that a therapist has many traumas to unpack.

Is Complex PTSD the same as borderline personality disorder?

PTSD or complex PTSD and BPD (borderline personality disorder) are often confused for each other, and someone who is diagnosed with one may be misdiagnosed. After all, symptoms in the manual of mental disorders do overlap at times. BPD involves the difficulty of regulating emotions, and it does have some overlap with PTSD or complex PTSD. Here are some of its differences.

  • How people handle relationships can differ. People with post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) may avoid relationships altogether because they lack a connection or feel afraid to be in a relationship. Someone with BPD may have swinging emotions about the relationships. Both have relationship difficulties, which is where common ground arises.
  • Self-conceptions can differ. If someone has complex PTSD from surviving a traumatic event, this is a disorder that can develop into negative self-conception. Meanwhile, someone with BPD can have self-conceptions that differ wildly.

With that said, both are similar, and someone can experience both. This makes the journey to treat complex PTSD include BPD as well, making it even more of a challenge.

Can complex PTSD cause psychosis?

When you have PTSD, you may experience symptoms of psychosis alongside it. PTSD affects the brain in many ways, and people with PTSD may experience psychosis. Your doctor may treat it as its own separate disorder, however.

With that said, what is psychosis? Here are some symptoms.

  • You may have hallucinations. You will see, hear, or have another sensation towards something that is not actually there.
  • You could have delusions. When you have psychosis, you may believe that you're something or someone you're not, and you may hold yourself on a much higher pedestal.
  • You may experience flashbacks. This is common with people with PTSD. People who have been in war, for example, are known to experience flashbacks, or flashbacks to a childhood trauma.
  • Psychosis could involve disassociation. When you have complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD,) you could feel as though you're disconnected from your body.

Is Complex PTSD a diagnosis?

Yes, PTSD or complex PTSD is a diagnosis. Your doctor will have to do a few tests on you to determine whether or not you have it? Sometimes, you may have another disorder. For example, you could have PTSD and BPD, and it's important your doctor knows what you have.

If you've experienced long-term trauma and you go to your doctor, there's a good chance you'll be diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).

Can complex PTSD be cured?

There is a difference between something being treatable and curable. There is no cure for complex PTSD, or standard PTSD for that matter. You can't take a magic pill to rid the symptoms, though some medication can help.

Instead, you treat PTSD or complex PTSD through therapy and medication. Complex PTSD takes time to heal from, and those who experience complex PTSD may still have the occasional episode even if they feel like they're treated. With PTSD and CPTSD, seeking help from a therapist as soon as possible can improve your chances of recovery, but seeking help at any time is important as well.

It's also important to find resources to help you or your loved one, such as visiting the National Center for PTSD.

Of course, these questions and tips are meant to help you make a well-informed decision but it is also important to feel comfortable around your therapist. If you realize the psychology professional you have chosen is not a comfortable fit, it is okay to look for a new one. There is no right or wrong way to find a therapist. It is all about you and your comfort level.

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