Working with trauma patients can be heavy work, but Tabitha Westbrook shares how she knew this niche was right for her from the start. She has used important research and resources to help her develop a practice that both speaks to her and helps people heal through all levels of trauma.
Why did you decide to become a counselor?
We have to step in the way back machine for this question! When I was in high school, I had some friends who were going through really awful things – the stuff people don’t generally talk about. I saw them struggle and thought, “Man, there really needs to be a way to help people with the really hard stuff!” As I was exploring career options I learned about counseling and how it can really help people who are stuck or who have had terrible things happen in their lives. I wanted to help people heal and live amazing lives. I had some amazing counselors in my life as well and grew so much – that cemented my desire to make counseling my career.
Why did you choose to open your counseling center in North Carolina?
I’ve lived in NC since 1989 and went to middle and high school here. It’s a wonderfully diverse state with both beaches and mountains and wonderful people. This is my home. What better way to give to your community than to help its people be as wonderfully healthy as possible?
What is the biggest difference between therapy in an agency versus a private practice in North Carolina?
Agencies are a wonderful asset to a community, but they are limited in scope and ability. Agencies serve a very specific population, and many people in the community do not fit into that population, but still could benefit from counseling. In private practice we have more resources at our fingertips and can really be creative in the therapy process. We also have a lower number of clients than an agency practitioner would so we can offer more personalized services, like intensives, more frequent appointments, phone, and video sessions.
What is your favorite specialization?
Our team loves working with traumatic experiences, whether those experiences occurred in childhood or adulthood. Trauma here includes things like experiencing child abuse, spiritual abuse, domestic abuse, neglect, car accidents, witnessing violence/murders, loss of family members under tragic circumstances, etc. It also means being exposed to traumatic events. Law enforcement officers, first responders, and military personnel/veterans can experience trauma due to the nature of their jobs. Sometimes people don’t even realize they’ve experienced something traumatic, they just know life isn’t going as planned. We see this a lot in couples where one of the partners was unfaithful or committed a significant financial betrayal. We help folks heal from all types of traumatic events and truly live life.
How did your training prepare you for your niche? Or did your niche prepare you for your training?
I would say my niche prepared me for training. I’ve always been interested in how trauma affects the brain, body, and soul. As the fields of neuroscience and counseling intersected, I was overjoyed to see research supporting what I think people generally know – what we’ve been through affects everything, every part of us. I went in search of training in techniques that take the whole picture into account and provide the best tools to help our clients heal and find freedom. We tell our clients, “It’s okay not to be okay – but you do not have to stay there!” We get in the ditch with them and help them find their way out.
What is your top advice to other therapists who want to work with trauma and domestic violence in private practice?
First and foremost, educate yourselves and really consider what it looks like to work in that space. My team and I call it “being in the deep end of the pond”. We are given the gift of holding some incredible darkness with our clients as we help lead them toward the light. It’s beautiful and sacred work, but it is hard stuff. Learn the best techniques you can, like EMDR, brainspotting, DBT, somatic experiencing, etc. so you have a ready arsenal of tools for your clients.
Tabitha and her team are Land of Darkness Escape Guides who help people shed darkness from things past or present and walk into the future light whole and strong. Tabitha is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), as well as a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP). Her office is located in Wake Forest, NC.