Hey there! My name is Lindsay Valley, and I'm a therapist in Phoenix who has specialized in emotion regulation & complex trauma work. You might be thinking or feeling, "what do those words even mean?" I think we all know & feel how rampant trauma is, but the word may be thrown around often. And with social media you may have been exposed to dozens of therapist pages & maybe even non-therapist practitioners such as coaches, astrologers, reiki practitioners, etc. What's the difference? And what constitutes reaching out to someone? The content I've been reading has been great, helpful, & it's accessible, or, it's been unhelpful, doesn't resonate, & I had to unfollow.

If you've thought any of these things, you may be taking your own mental health & wellbeing, healing, into your own hands or at least have been curious about healing & wellness- which is amazing... & lots of hard work! But now, you might be thinking you could use some help around here- but where do you even start at this point?

Your mental space is filled to capacity with want & dreams & goals for your own healing, your life, but not to mention the tasks, demands, and responsibilities of everyday & the climate we're living in. Financial stressors. Family stress. Relationship stress. The laundry that needs to get done this week or you literally will not have anything to wear when you manage to have plans to get out of the house this weekend.

At this point, you might be thinking I don't even have time for this (trauma healing or your mental health), so I don't want it or I don't need it. It'll be fine. I'll be okay.

And you're right. You will be okay. Because you're a survivor and you've made it this far, you've done it, you always have.

But I want you to know that you don't have to go through the pain, distress, & heaviness of navigating it all alone. It's not about whether or not you're capable (you are) it's that you are used to doing it on your own. And maybe that's a part of the work for you. To recognize that you don't have to & to actually reach out for help.

But even if you decide you still want (or need) to keep your healing & wellness journey outside of a working relationship with a practitioner of some kind, my hope for this post is to alleviate a little bit of the overwhelm. To break down some general topics, questions, & areas for further research if you so choose down the line.

Some basic definitions

Any & all of these topics could be their own post but I'll try to generally illustrate each down below.

If you're interested in learning more try typing your question (big or small) into Google. You can also add ~ onto your search keywords & Google will pull up what it thinks could be related or helpful.

Therapist vs Counselor vs Coach:

Many disciplines can practice/provide counseling & coaching, but not all of those folks are mental health therapists & counselors. Mental health practitioners are specifically trained to treat the spectrum of mental health concerns. They typically hold a masters degree in social work or counseling (they can also be a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, or psychiatric nurse) and typically go on to pursue associate licensure & then independent licensure within their discipline. The independent level of licensure for social work is LCSW (licensed clinical social worker) & LPC (licensed professional counselor) for counseling. Mental health therapists/counselors can provide psychotherapy. Psychotherapy treats a "multitude of psychological, behavioral, and somatic problems, symptoms, and disorders," (Prince et al., 2007; Goldfried, 2013).

Essentially, mental health practitioners are trained to work with folks experiencing various degrees of mental health challenges. A concern or challenge could be significant enough that it meets criteria to be considered a mental health symptom (but not always, and this can fluctuate).

Coaches, who may provide coaching to individuals, couples, etc., might use general counseling skills, but coaches are unable to provide therapy or psychotherapy. Coaches still should have their own frameworks, strategies, skills, and ethics or boundaries they utilize with their clients. Coaches are able to highlight, bring forth, more of themselves in the work that they do with clients. There are no requirements for becoming a life coach & there is no regulatory entity for coaching (lumiacoaching.com)  

Essentially, coaching can be brought into therapy, but therapy cannot be brought into coaching (lumiacoaching.com). A coach will focus with you on the present day & partner with you on strategies for the future & future goals, while a therapist/ mental health counselor/ practitioner is able to, and probably will, explore more of your past & how that's impacting you in the present.

Disclaimer: I'm currently only practicing as a therapist, a mental health practitioner (specifically, in Arizona, U.S.). All of this is general information in hopes to shed some light. Always do your own research & ask questions.

While coaches are not able to practice therapy, I don't doubt that their work can be therapeutic, have therapeutic effects, or similar, as the healing & wellness journey is specific to you, your beliefs, needs, & what resonates most for you.

All practitioners should have theory, principles, frameworks, education, or lived experience that guides & informs their work with their clients. Again, please do your own research & ask questions! If you are ever curious about working with someone, you are able to ask them about their experience, credentials, and what guides the work they do.

Wellness, Well-being, & Healing

Some general distinctions between wellness, well-being, and healing:

According to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘wellness’ is ’the state of being healthy, especially when you actively try to achieve this.’  Well-being, on the other hand, is considered ‘general health and happiness, a state of emotional/physical/psychological well-being’. Within these definitions, it can be easily said that wellness is the day-to-day pursuit of attaining a sense of well-being, leading with examples such as physical exercise, movement, meditation, sleep and nutrition.- via Meraki Bespoke Wellness Strategies


Healing was associated with themes of wholeness, narrative, and spirituality. Healing is an intensely personal, subjective experience involving a reconciliation of the meaning an individual ascribes to distressing events with his or her perception of wholeness as a person...Healing may be operationally defined as the personal experience of the transcendence of suffering (Egnew, 2005).

The Oxford dictionary defines healing as "the process of making or becoming sound or healthy again...tending to heal; therapeutic."a healing experience"

What sticks out to me in these definitions for healing is "subjective experience," and "intensely personal," "the process of," & "tending to."

Trauma & a Trauma Therapist's perspective  

I'll speak a little bit more to the trauma lens of a trauma therapist, since I am a trauma therapist.

Back in the day, we used to think of trauma as "big T" trauma: seemingly obvious, identifiable incidents of trauma, such as a car accident, assault, or natural disasters. All of those are examples of trauma but the mental health field & the collective has recognized and I think continues to grow in recognizing various spheres/ layers of trauma and "small t" traumas. "Small t," traumas can be understood as chronic, countless incidents, even moments, over time, often beginning in early childhood or even in the womb. Some examples of "small t" trauma include family/ parents never talking about emotions growing up, witnessing a parent working multiple jobs and perhaps consequently emotionally unavailable, the level of responsibility & tasks/duty an eldest daughter had to carry out on a daily basis, other family member roles & dynamics, etc. "Small t's" can add up, in combination with "larger t" traumas to create the experience we refer to as complex trauma. Trauma has then occurred chronically over time throughout the lifespan.

Complex trauma impacts our relationships, relationship with self, identity, and regulating our emotions. Complex trauma therapy explores trauma and your present day experiences. There are strategies and modalities depending on the therapist & their practices to alleviate distress & challenges around complex trauma. Your therapist should partner with you to see what's what and collaborate with you on areas of focus, types of therapy, and what you'd hope to get out of therapy.  

Wild Century Plant in Sedona AZ
Photo by Clay Banks / Unsplash

Questions to Ask Yourself

Now with hopefully some groundwork covered, you might consider/ reflect on the following areas below. These aren't necessarily in order or even all inclusive, but hopefully these questions may guide you to some insight (or perhaps more questions but that is okay!)

Where am I at?

Am I curious about reaching out to a practitioner of some kind for support?

Does anything even bother me about my life right now? I mean truly. Does anything bother me? What bothers me?

If something does bother me, am I willing to talk about this and work on this with someone else? Am I willing to receive feedback? In time, will I be ready to enact some action & strategies that a practitioner discusses with me, that they think will be helpful for me & my situation?

Do I want to work through some stuff that happened in my past, or am I more concerned about present day & how to move forward in the future?

Am I looking for a transformation? If so, what kind of transformation am I looking for? Do I feel like if I could see results in one concentrated area of my life, the rest would just fall into place? Do I want to or am able to work with someone to do this or do I feel like I could self study? Maybe the title of who I work with doesn't matter to me, I just want to feel confident they can help me & what they talk about resonates for me.

What do I believe in?

Culturally informed care, is ethical care (Warner, 2021).

Your beliefs, your values, shouldn't be an afterthought. They are in fact the foundation. Often we may have trouble identifying them though; a practitioner should be able to help you name & identify your values & beliefs.

What does/ did my family believe about mental health, wellness, living, faith? Does any of this make it harder or is it helpful for me?

What resources are available to me?

What resources are available to me? What are my finances?

At what capacity am I able to participate or commit to healing or wellness right now?

Where do I feel called to go?

At the end of the day, when all is said and done, that little hunch you have, maybe somewhere in your chest, your heart, or your gut, is usually spot on.

A huge premise of EMDR theory & therapy is "our brain knows where it needs to go." Practitioners of all kinds of disciplines and writers, artists, ancestors, have all spoken of a part of ourselves that knows exactly the way to go. This is no secret. And it's been said in so many ways over time because there is truth to it.

You may work through all of these questions- or not- you may choose to follow the hunch you already have & that might be exactly what's needed.


And finally...

No matter what you decide, you can't go wrong. It's about making conscious, effective decisions with the resources we have. When we can make conscious decisions, that align with our values, we are empowered.

There is no wrong way to heal.

If any of this was helpful, you're more than welcome to watch this space for further updates on the blog or follow on Instagram: @luminarytherapyaz or Facebook: @luminarytherapyaz.

Thank you for reading!



APA Dictionary of Psychology. (2022). APA Dictionary of Psychology. https://dictionary.apa.org/psychotherapy

Egnew T. R. (2005). The meaning of healing: transcending suffering. Annals of family medicine, 3(3), 255–262. https://doi.org/10.1370/afm.313

Goldfried M. R. (2013). What should we expect from psychotherapy?Clin. Psychol. Rev.33, 862–869. 10.1016/j.cpr.2013.05.003

Prince M., Patel V., Saxena S., Maj M., Maselko J., Phillips M. R., et al.. (2007). No health without mental health. Lancet370, 859–877. 10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61238-0

From Therapist to Life Coach: How to Make the Move Successfully | Lumia. (2021). Lumia. https://www.lumiacoaching.com/blog/from-therapist-to-life-coach

Warner, PhD, C. (2021, June 21). Cultural humility, curiosity, & collaborativeness: Pathways to cultural competence beyond the hegemony of cultural differences [Training, Arizona Trauma Institute]. Cultural humility, curiosity, & collaborativeness: Pathways to cultural competence beyond the hegemony of cultural differences, Mesa, AZ.