Trauma Therapist Careers – Becoming a Trauma Therapist

The career of a trauma therapist is very similar to that of a psychologist or counselor, with unique and unusual rewards. Trauma therapy is an exciting and rewarding field that is critically linked to psychology.

Many people work in trauma therapy by first working to get a four-year degree in a related field, like social work or psychology and then going to graduate school to specialize in trauma therapy. This may require getting a Master degree with a concentration in trauma therapy.

What Does a Trauma Therapist Do?

Trauma therapists work with clients that have recently experienced trauma. Some of the common issues that trauma therapists deal with include the following:

  1. Hyperarousal. This is a common side effect of recently experiencing a trauma. Generally, an individual that undergoes hyperarousal will experience symptoms that include having an increased heart rate, difficulty with respiration and blood pressure, increased tension including muscular and physical tension, trouble sleeping, experiences with anxiety and fear, or irritability and anger.
  2. Avoidance. An individual that experiences trauma will also often avoid anything that reminds them of the recent trauma they have undergone. This includes avoiding being with friends and family or not having the ability to work.
  3. Intrusions. An individual that experiences trauma will often have intrusive and invasive thoughts, also focusing on the traumatic event. This may cause a client to withdraw from others, experience frequent nightmares or waking throughout the evening.
  4. Hyperarousal. A person with hyperarousal may experience feeling emotionally numb, not feeling many things, not smelling or tasting things and having a sense of unreality around their day. People will feel tense, and agitated while also feeling numb.

Many people undergoing trauma find their symptoms and feelings so distressing that they must turn to substances to help numb their emotions and feel better. These crutches can easily become a habit. Still others begin taking unnecessary risks and engaging in activities that are considered “high-risk.” These may include engaging in reckless behavior that may result in a personal accident.

Trauma therapists focus on the specific symptoms that their client is having. They have appropriate training in identifying post-traumatic stress symptoms. Trauma therapists may engage in a specific plan of action to relieve symptoms of trauma. Therapy may be shorter than therapy for other types of disorders.

Where Does a Trauma Therapist Work?

The work environment for most trauma therapists vary. Some will work in healthcare facilities, many in hospitals, others in outpatient clinics or rehabilitation centers. Trauma therapists may have their own specialty practice as well.

What are the Requirements to Become a Trauma Therapist?


Most trauma therapists will need to acquire a bachelor degree minimum to work in the field, with specialization courses in psychology and related fields. Most will go on to receive advance training, which will include a master degree in their field of specialty.

Some work environments including hospitals or other healthcare facilities may not hire an individual without a master degree, and a minimum of two years’ experience in the field. A master degree as a trauma therapist may require an internship and practicum as well, to provide hands on training in the field.


Each state has specific requirements for the education and licensure of mental health professionals. You will be required to complete a graduate degree program, pass a licensing test and complete a supervised practicum or internship. Most states require between 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised experience working as a counselor.

Skills and Qualities

To be successful in the field, trauma therapists must have characteristics, skill sets and personality traits that engage trauma therapists, helping each to work well in an emergency-type environment. Some of the more common characteristics of trauma therapists include the following:

  1. Caring and Understanding. A trauma therapist works with individuals that have recently experienced trauma, of varying degrees. For a therapist to best relate to their clients it is important they are caring, compassionate and display empathy toward the clients and patients they work with.
  2. Listening and Interpersonal Skills. A trauma therapist may work with a client that needs to have time to discuss what happened during their recent emergency or other trauma. To achieve this well, a trauma therapist will need strong listening ability, and the ability to work with diverse people.
  3. Organizational Skills. A trauma therapist has a lot of information to take in, and may need to interview several people related to a particular event. Most will also carry a heavy case load. To excel in their field, it is vital that a trauma therapist has organizational skills that allow them to excel in their field.
  4. Problem-Solving. Most trauma therapists are working with patients to uncover and discover solutions to complex problems. These may be short-term or long-term problems. Developing caring, professional and innovative solutions will help the trauma therapist excel in his or her field.

Trauma therapists may also do well and excel in their field when they have the ability to work with patients or clients that have undergone much stress and pressure. Thus, the ability to work in stressful environments, and remain calm without interfering with one’s work ability will help the trauma therapist excel in his or her field.

What is the Salary and Job Outlook for Trauma Therapists?

As of February 2024, according to ZipRecruiter, the average yearly salary for a trauma therapist is $75,231, with top earners (90th percentile) making on average $104,000 per year.

The specialty of trauma may help individuals with more experience to find positions more easily than mental health professionals without a specialty, or those with little experience working in the field.

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