Treatment, Counseling and Recovery

The following resources were compiled by First Response Action Coalition members.  For additional support, please . Additional resources were provided by the International Society for Trauma Stress Studies and the Veterans Administration.

After surviving a trauma, it is important to find a counselor, support group or other treatment that will help you navigate your recovery. Here are some resources and tips that may be helpful.  Finding treatment is highly personal and very much location-specific.  We’ve included resources that you can access anywhere in the U.S. and we are working on resources in major cities too.


Treatment Resources:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy: CPT: CPT helps you by giving you a new way to handle these distressing thoughts and to gain an understanding of these events. By using the skills learned in this therapy, you can learn why recovery from traumatic events has been hard for you. CPT helps you learn how going through a trauma changed the way you look at the world, yourself, and others. The way we think and look at things directly affects how we feel and act.  CPT has four parts: [1] Learning about your PTSD symptoms [2] Becoming aware of thoughts and feelings [3] Learning skills [4] Understanding changes in beliefs
  • Exposure Therapy:  About Exposure Therapy:Exposure therapy is a specific type of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy technique that is often used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and phobias.  In PTSD, exposure therapy is intended to help the patient face and gain control of the fear and distress that was overwhelming in the trauma, and must be done very carefully in order not to re-traumatize the patient. In some cases, trauma memories or reminders can be confronted all at once (”flooding”), while for other individuals or traumas it is preferable to work gradually up to the most severe trauma by using relaxation techniques and either starting with less upsetting life stressors or by taking the trauma one piece at a time (”desensitization”). A therapist works with the client to determine which method is best suited for the particular client and their trauma.
  • EMDR Therapy: About EMDR: Research shows that EMDR is rapid, safe and effective. EMDR does not involve the use of drugs or hypnosis. It is a simple, non-invasive patient-therapist collaboration in which healing can happen effectively. This powerful short-term therapy is highly effective for a wide range of disorders including chronic pain, phobias, depression, panic attacks, eating disorders and poor self-image, stress, worry, stage fright, performance anxiety, recovery from sexual abuse and traumatic incidents.
  • Check out your local college or university’s psychology or counseling department.  This is a reasonably affordable option if you can’t (or choose not to) go through Worker’s Comp.  Programs will vary.
  • Ask around.  Get referrals for counselors and ask about speciality.  Depending on your situation, try your best to find a therapist who specializes in trauma or who has worked in an international setting.


Other Helpful Resources:



Sorting Them Out

  • Psychiatrists: These are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental or psychiatric illnesses. They have medical training and are licensed to prescribe drugs. They are also trained in psychotherapy, or “talk” therapy, which aims to change a person’s behaviors or thought patterns.
  • Psychologists: These are doctoral degree (PhD or PsyD) experts in psychology. They study the human mind and human behavior and are also trained in counseling, psychotherapy, and psychological testing — which can help uncover emotional problems you may not realize you have. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the psychologist’s main treatment tool — to help people identify and change inaccurate perceptions that they may have of themselves and the world around them. Psychologists are not licensed to prescribe medications. However, they can refer you to a psychiatrist if necessary.
  • Social Workers: These are specialists that provide social services in health-related settings that now are governed by managed care organizations. Their goal is to enhance and maintain a person’s psychological and social functioning — they provide empathy and counseling on interpersonal problems. Social workers help people function at their best in their environment, and they help people deal with relationships and solve personal and family problems.
  • Licensed Professional Counselors. These counselors are required by state licensure laws to have at least a master’s degree in counseling and 3,000 hours of post-master’s experience. They are either licensed or certified to independently diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, says W. Mark Hamilton, PhD, executive director of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. Counselors can help a wide range of problems, including depression, addiction and substance abuse, suicidal impulses, stress management, self-esteem issues, issues of aging, emotional health, and family, parenting, and marital or other relationship problems. They often work closely with other mental health specialists.


Tips from survivors:

  • Have ‘informational interviews’ with counselors or therapists before agreeing to work with one.  I found that a couple counselors were more interested in hearing about my Peace Corps stories than helping me.  I also realized that I was in ‘victim mode’ and was just taking orders from the counselor, even though my instincts told me that I didn’t feel comfortable with her.  I learned it’s okay to meet with a few counselors before deciding on the right one for me.  I wish I had asked for informational meetings to get to know counselors first.


Getting in Touch with Survivors:

  • If you would like to talk with someone who has survived a trauma during Peace Corps service, please email and we will get you in touch with a survivor that you can speak with one-on-one.
  • Please note that the survivors who are part of our Survivor’s Circle are nottrained counselors.  They are simply one way that you can receive support from someone who has also been through a trauma.
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