Questions Every Therapist Should Be Able To Answer And Books On Their Shelf

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I haven’t just had years of working with clients and helping provide education to them on their health concerns and symptoms. In addition to thousands of hours in clinical practice, I also have worked to help train other therapists in the same.

And beyond that I have therapists trained in other modalities coming to see me for help because what they practice with their clients doesn’t work on them. Or at least it didn’t. And in that it can be confusing. But in those that have had the courage to seek other work for themselves, they have found new ways to improve in their own practice. Every good therapist, has their own therapist.

Much of my current new business is coming as a therapist’s therapist in this season.

I’ve been swimming upstream with SRT (Self Regulation Therapy) in professional practice for over 7 years now. I raised eyebrows in grad school with my demo tapes. I’ve been vocal about what I do and why I do it the entire time. The nervous system wasn’t even mentioned in grad school – and yet it trumps everything else.

The training I witnessed and the demo tapes of talk therapy went against every piece of neuroscience I was learning in concurrent training. It baffled and frustrated me and I was chronically curious and challenging of what we were taught for the entire two years.

I’ve been equally vocal about the frustration practicing in this field with the stark reality of how few doctors recommend therapy at all, let alone before medications. Almost none recommend science backed lifestyle strategies either.

I’m vocal about the frustration I have when someone can be in the psych ward for 5 weeks without a single actual therapy session with a trained counselor, but daily visits for polypharmaceutical medication management. And then released with NO follow up for 3 months.

But they were admitted for suicidality and depression and still no one recommended counseling let alone nutrition, exercise, supplements, and other brain changing adventures.

This is 21st century mental health care?

It’s appalling.

I’m equally amazed at therapists that don’t have this widely available and scientifically backed information.

So not everyone likes me because I’m vocal and eternally curious, and I’m ok with that.

Because I dive into new research like it’s a bowl of Skittles after a juice cleanse.

In my practice, this work sheds light on many areas of confusion and shame for my clients.

They start to understand how their brain works.

We don’t focus on symptoms the way everyone else does – we focus on the root.

And in understanding their own brains, there is settling.

They feel it differently in session as a result. They became able to depersonalize and de-catastrophize events outside of session because of this new perspective. This has been revolutionary for them and deeply satisfying for me.

To share this with other therapists and see their work transform and their clients break plateaus and find long term health as opposed to long term therapy is equally satisfying.

And yet there is resistance as well. There are many therapists who take what they learn in grad school and don’t participate in any specialization training post-grad. Their continuing education is all online, unsupervised, or non existent.

And they’re rigid in old school theory and talk therapy.

They reject or are ambivalent or outright disinterested in new research and science.

And in many ways it’s good for business. They have repeat business indefinitely with people really only held together or showing improvement because of the therapeutic relationship alone. Which we all learned is 85% of healing.

And this is valuable – and necessary, but not sufficient.

But that depends on what how you define healing.

Healing to me, means that developmental ruptures have been healed, that old toxic patterns are broken, that chronic emotional and mental and physical illness or imbalance is greatly reduced or eliminated and that the person is moving forward into their life with optimism and joy and resilience.

Joy. Not just the absence of symptoms.

They don’t see me for years and forever because they typically get that much better so that I may only see them once a year or during a crisis for a “tune up”.

It’s bad for business, but it’s good for life.

I don’t know everything.

What I know now based on the research could change at any time with new research in brain science – which is why I’m on its radar constantly.

It’s also why I work collaboratively – adding to my knowledge base and connecting with other experts in relevant fields so that my clients get a team of highly skilled professionals tackling every area of life they’re concerned about.

So we support and educate and do our work and rehabilitate people into their own lives so they can be set free.

With continuing mentorship, education, and case collaboration and supervision – as therapists, this is a responsibility we take seriously so we don’t find ourselves in a vacuum of outdated information.

Because seriously – we’re working with people’s lives here. It’s kind of a sacred deal and we are really concerned and should be about giving best care.

What I’m always surprised about is how little knowledge many therapists are out there practicing with in terms of the research.

We are treating emotional and mental dysregulation for sure – but that doesn’t exist in isolation so we can’t leave our knowledge isolated either.

This is a whole person. With a unique history. With a unique genetic imprint on top of environmental impacts. And a unique context of life.

How can you treat the whole person and all that’s going on in their life as perceived and processed through their brain if you don’t know how the brain works?

If you don’t know that the reptilian brain trumps the thinking and emotional brains. If you don’t know how the brain develops and functions from the bottom-up?

How can you get past roadblocks in therapy if you don’t know how early kindling in the brain from second trimester on or how early separation from mom, illness/fever, toxin exposure, misattunement etc., impacts development and creates repetitive patterns in both the developing mind AND the body?

What if you don’t know about kindling and quenching in the brain and are treating someone with chronic pain – you’re missing the mechanics of the root and restricted to focusing on coping with symptoms.

There are vso many therapists that don’t know the research on the chemicals in the brain and where they come from, how they’re released, what their purpose is.

Therapists who don’t know the research on inflammation and how it impacts the brain.

Therapists that don’t recommend or know about clinical research on supplements that rival pharmaceuticals or refer you to someone that specializes in that.

Therapists that don’t know about how food impacts mood or makes recommendations for anti-inflammatory food and nutrition programs (or refers you to someone that specializes in that).

How what’s happening in your body impacts your brain – and as monumentally important – how what’s going on in your brain impacts your body.

Your therapist should know the neurobiological roots of PTSD, chronic pain, GI issues, autoimmune disorders, migraines, insomnia, depression, anxiety.

The mechanics of common prescriptions and side effects of psychoactive drugs.

What other medical conditions that mimic depression and anxiety and what to recommend for testing to rule those out.

And the gut-brain axis and how essential it is that gut health be addressed – with a referral to an expert on this.

As a client – it’s not your job to know these things – it’s ours.

So consider writing some of this down when interviewing your therapist.

Ask them how they use neuroplasticity in session to change the brain?

Or how they connect the felt sense to thoughts and emotions to create new neural pathways.

Ask them to explain the nervous system – what is sympathetic arousal and how is that triggered and what is that experience like? How to initiate a parasympathetic response.

Ask if their therapeutic modality heals development ruptures concurrently while you work in the here and now.

Ask how they prevent flooding and overwhelm and make sure they know the importance of not talking about traumatic experiences, as they happened, from memory, going through detail by detail and reliving the experience.

Make sure they don’t let you relive your trauma that way or get into a flooded and then numbed out state of purging catharthis.

Why? Because all of these things are counterproductive to healing.

With what we know about the brain and the nervous system and how it holds and heals from trauma – we now know better than to add more water to an overflowing container. And that’s what those practices do.

Ask what they recommend for nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, supplementation, and other professionals they refer to. Check out their network.

We have new information about pharmaceuticals and supplements and lifestyle practices along with how to naturally influence the optimal balance and provide growth and health to the brain.

There aren’t a lot of graduate programs that teach this stuff.

Your therapist needs to be so passionate about this career that they get their hands on and read and discern – measuring against what we know about the brain and how it works – advancements in this field. So they can educate you.

Look for this passion.

Because my entire being lights up when I talk about the brain and how we’re changing it in session and the potential for healing.

You want a therapist that can help you understand what’s going on in your own body and brain and so that when they use neuroscience-based therapy in session, you have a sense of what they’re doing and why.

It makes you a collaborative partner in your own emotional, mental, and physical health.

Find someone with a passion for knowledge. Find an expert. Be a smart consumer.

This is your brain. Find someone that has these books on their shelf and can speak to you about how any of this is relevant to your experience.

Challenge them – use your voice. If they practice a modality that makes you feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable and where you don’t leave feeling better than when you arrived, talk about it. Get a second opinion.

I choose Self Regulation Therapy because it works for everything – developmentally, to heal trauma, to regain health in every way.

Without being overwhelming.

It’s aligned with neuroscience and that’s important to me. It’s a healthier modality for therapists because it avoids the same level of vicarious trauma and burn out as others.

It allows me to work with the whole brain and not just parts of it and it opens the door to work with other solid experts in companion treatments for optimal health.  

I also use it because I’ve seen it work better than any other modality that I’ve witnessed, experienced, or used. Without question. Long term.

My case study being published soon that shows how effectively SRT worked in concurrent diagnosis, with a long history of multiple complex traumas, development ruptures, early abuse, cycles of addiction and bipolar disorder and in 6 weeks this client went from barely functional to being approved to return to work. From there she was promoted. She got married, got pregnant. Got another promotions and at the 2 and 4 year mark is thriving in her life no longer meeting diagnostic criteria for many of her previous diagnosis and on no medication.

She’d seen every other kind of therapist you can imagine and been medicated in a polypharma approach that was crippling. CBT, EMDR, and others made her symptoms worse. SRT changed her life. I could never work any other way but in this psychophysiological way and would never seek counselling with anyone that didn’t use the same.

These are on my bookshelf and there are many others that help provide an understanding on a neurobiological level as to what your experience might be. At least half of these should be on your therapist’s bookshelf too but they’re all books that you could read on your own for a compelling look at your own brain.

  1. The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing by Norman Doidge – These are essentials for every therapist. They are powerful reads for every client.
  2. Magnificent Mind At Any Age and for women, Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain by Dr. Daniel Amen
  3. The Ultramind Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman
  4. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide To Stress, Stress Related Diseases and Coping by Robert Sapolsky
  5. In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness
  6. The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, Self Regulation by Stephen Porges
  7. When The Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection by Gabor Mate, MD
  8. The Body Bears The Burden and The Trauma Spectrum by Robert Scaer
  9. Grain Brain and Brain Maker by Dr. David Perlmutter
  10. Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Dan Siegel
  11. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise And The Brain – Why exercise is the cornerstone of every single brain health or mental health issue and why it can’t be ignored as a primary modality for treatment.
  12. Super Brain – Deepak Chopra & Rudolph Tanzi – These are the basics of the brain written in easy to digest layman’s terms that everyone can benefit from in typical Deepak style.

by Tara Miller

Psychotherapist & writer. Helping you live your fullest life using neuroscience based SRT (Self Regulation Therapy). Specializing in general and trauma therapy.

2 thoughts on “Questions Every Therapist Should Be Able To Answer And Books On Their Shelf

  1. Daniel Olexa, CCHt says:

    I’m as amazed as you at the number of people who are treated with drugs first and therapy second, and at the number of practitioners who do not keep up with new research. It offends me, as it does you.

    We chose our professions to help others. You are correct, it is sacred.

    We owe our clients the best we can bring to them. We owe them our knowledge and experience.

    They are coming to us for answers. We should have them.

  2. Gary Dashney says:

    Buyer beware is a good principle, even when dealing with what doctor or therapist you choose. A diploma or certificate on the wall doesn’t always mean they are any good at what they do, either. I’ve seen Masters and PhDs with no aptitude in their field across the spectrum. Choose wisely! A good list of criteria and questions, Tara. Good reading list too!

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