10 golden rules for professionals

How can professionals help people heal from child sexual abuse?

Dande-lion heart, symbol for the lionhearted, survivors of child sexual abuse, photograph by Agnes van der Graaf

There are a lot of ways in which health care professionals and therapists can aid people in their healing process. I recently found this anonymous piece about the 10 golden rules for professionals. It was in a different context, but adapted them for professionals dealing with adult survivors of child sexual abuse. I’m sure there’s a few more golden rules we could think of. I found the first one to be very helpful. Quite often professionals invest a lot of time in getting the clients trust. This seems to me like a waste of time. Trust is something that you learn, perhaps, at the end of therapy, not something that is a prerequisite to it. Let me know what you think.

Rule number 1: Realize that your cliënt doesn’t trust you.

Trust has to be earned and once broken it’s very difficult to get back. For people suffering the long term effects of child sexual abuse, trust was broken a long long time ago. That means they don’t trust you, they will test you. Be trustworthy, but don’t expect your cliënt to trust you completely. Ever.

Rule number 2: Let the cliënts tell their story

Let them tell the story in their own way, on their own terms and in their own tempo. You may not have a need to hear it, but the cliënt may have a need to tell. So sit there and listen to it.

Rule number 3: Accept that your cliënts did the best they could

Hindsight is 20/20 they say and I’m sure you could have thought of several better ways of dealing with the abuse and the subsequent situations. Your cliënt can probably think of a million more. At the time however, your cliënt made the best of the situation. They did the best they could to survive and succeeded. Honor that.

Rule number 4: Don’t treat your cliënt like a statistic

Your cliënt is a person, with their own characteristics, their own needs and wants. They have their own history and their own way of dealing with what happened to them.

Rule number 5: Don’t judge your cliënt

Your cliënt is neither good nor bad. Your cliënt is who he or she is, with all the good and bad that is inherent in any human being. They are who they are and that is all they can be at this point.

Rule number 6: Don’t think you know better than your cliënt

All you know is what your cliënt chooses to tell you about themselves and that’s always just a small part of who they are. Remember you’re just the ‘hired help.’

Rule number 7: Don’t think you know what your cliënt should do

You don’t know. Your cliënts are the experts on their own lives. They may be lost and confused, but they still know a lot more than you do about how to survive their trauma.

Rule number 8: Don’t burden your cliënt with your expectations

Your cliënt has enough to contend with, just dealing with their own expectations on a daily basis.

Rule number 9: Listen to your cliënts feelings

Don’t just listen to the words, listen to the feelings as well and accept them all. If you can’t accept your cliënts feelings, how do you think your cliënt is ever going to learn how to deal with them?

Rule number 10: Don’t rescue your cliënt

Your cliënts can rescue themselves. They have done so for a long time. Besides, they were smart enough to come see you weren’t they?

What are your golden rules?

There they are, 10 golden rules for professionals. Let me know what you think: are you missing any of your golden rules? If you’re a professional, how do you measure up with these rules? If you’re a survivor, how does your ‘hired help’ measure up?