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trauma therapist in pa

Getting to Know our Therapists – A Q&A with Michelle Lombardo, LCSW

This week’s blog will be the first in a series on getting to know our therapists. We will be using a question and answer format to tackle some of the most frequently heard questions we get for each counselor. We are starting this series with Michelle Lombardo, an amazing full-time therapist that has been with Angelus since 2015 and comes with a wealth of experience in working with trauma and anxiety.

When starting trauma counseling, is there anything I need to do to prepare for my first session?

Being open to the process with the understanding there is going to be emotional discomfort, that it is completely normal and to be expected, but also that healing and achieving a reduction in distress surrounding the trauma is also very achievable.  It’s giving yourself the time and space to do that. When approaching counseling for past traumatic experiences you may need to put boundaries on certain areas of your life and assess how many directions your energy is going in at the time. If your schedule is already bursting at the seams it helps to take proactive steps to ensure that you have time to not only attend the counseling appointments but also have time to decompress after and internally process between appointments. Also, leading up to the session, engaging in self-care activities such as exercise and/or positive coping skills such as deep breathing or meditation can be helpful.  

Is telehealth really as effective as in person counseling? 

Yes, I believe telehealth can be just as effective as in person counseling. In my experience with providing virtual counseling, I have had consistent success in assisting clients in achieving their treatment goals. 

One of the most important components of therapy is feeling like the therapist can help you.  If you feel like you are able to connect to the therapist, and that the therapist can help you with what you would like to achieve, then the rate of success increases significantly, even in the tele-health the platform. 

Often it is our biases rather then the format of the counseling appointment that can make or break progress. If we feel like it won’t make a difference, then it won’t. We aren’t as likely to invest our emotional energy or allow ourselves to become vulnerable. Doing so means you don’t reach the core of your trauma and that will leave it festering to continue to resurface time after time.  

Does talking really make any difference? 

Talking about what you are feeling, and thinking can help in a lot of areas.  It can help you to feel more supported, it can normalize things you are experiencing, and it can help you in fully seeing the whole picture rather than feeling stuck in the details.  Also, by talking about your experiences, it gives us the opportunity to process ways to address problem areas and help improve your quality of life. 

“I’ve done counseling before and it didn’t help, what would be the point in doing it again?” 

When a person says ‘I did it before and it didn’t help”, that may be true; but we go through many phases and stages in our lives. We are never the same person from one moment to the next, because we are constantly learning, adapting, and growing.

A lot of factors played into your success or lack of success in past treatment.
  • Sometimes a person was not at a place of readiness to work on addressing issues when they came to counseling in the past. 
  • At times the focus HAD to be on physical safety and meeting basic needs and there weren’t the safety factors in place to tackle emotions and internal needs.
  • Fear could have kept them stuck and prevented them from addressing issues which were leading to cycles or habits of avoidance. 
  • Sometimes the person didn’t feel the positive connection or trust with their therapist at the time and shut down.
  • They may have struggled with healthy self-care and taking time for themselves to heal at that time and the treatment process over exhausted them and left them feel exposed.
  • And there is the fact that there are SO MANY ways to approach counseling and perhaps they did not find the way that worked best for them at the time.

Each person, situation, and struggle is unique and it is important to make the right connections between your needs and the ways in which you are approaching healing. Maybe play therapy didn’t work well for you as a child but that does not mean that narrative therapy or EMDR won’t work for you as an adult.

getting to know michelle for managing your anxiety

What is your experience in working with trauma?

Throughout my career I have felt a strong pull towards helping others through their traumatic experience and have focused my time and energy on learning how to do that to the best of my abilities. I am Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Pennsylvania, a Certified Trauma Professional, EMDRIA Certified in EMDR (Learn more about that here) and Trained in Trauma Focused CBT. I utilize a variety of approaches depending on my clients’ past experiences, current emotional resources, and learning styles.

I have so much going on, how will I even know if it’s working or not?

It is important to assess what your current struggle levels are going into counseling and what your goals are for the counseling process. The treatment planning process is an essential part of counseling as it can be your roadmap of progress.

Don’t just say I want to feel better, or even to get my anxiety down from an 8 to a 4. Really think about what an 8 and a 4 look like in your life.

  • Does that mean you can go to the grocery store at 5 pm on the 1st of the month without a panic attack?
  • Does it mean you can use boundaries with your mother or significant other when they are being critical or hurtful ‘out of love or concern’.  
  • Does that mean that you will be able to say no when your boss asks you AGAIN to work a double shift?

So, I think I want to give counseling a try, where do I start?

#1 – Just making that decision is a big step and you should be proud of yourself, congratulations on deciding to making your mental health a priority.

#2 – Make the call or submit an inquiry form now. Don’t wait, because the longer you wait the less likely you are to follow through.

We try to make the starting counseling process streamline and stress free at Angelus. Complete the treatment request form on our getting started page here. It can be filled out any time of day any day of the week so there is no worry about forgetting, getting sidetracked, or changing your mind. We will reach out to you and discuss your situation and what your options in counseling may be.

#3 – Start thinking about what you want to get out of the treatment process and create a running list. This will help you feel more prepared when you start but remember you won’t be addressing everything at one. This can go at your speed and readiness.

#4 – Check out our blog on preparing for your first appt!