I came across this a few years ago when I first embarked on my healing journey. I was terrified, feeling desperately alone and felt I had no right to anything beyond my shame. When I first read it, I was doubtful that I had the right to ANY of this and yet I kept reading…and reading…and reading. It took some time but eventually I came to believe that yes, I do have rights. I still revisit these (after all – slipping into old behaviors and ways of thinking are pretty hard-wired) and they serve as great reminders. I hope you find this as helpful as I have.
A Recovery Bill of Rights
for Trauma Survivors
As a Matter of Personal AUTHORITY, You Have the Right . . .
* to manage your life according to your own values and judgment.
* to direct your recovery, answerable to no one for your goals, effort, or progress.
* to gather information to make intelligent decisions about your recovery.
* to seek help from a variety of sources, unhindered by demands for exclusivity.
* to decline help from anyone without having to justify the decision.
* to have faith in your powers of self restoration — and to seek allies who share it.
* to trust allies in healing as much as any adult can trust another, but no more.
* to be afraid and to avoid what frightens you.
* to decide for yourself whether, when, and where to confront your fear.
* to learn by experimenting, that is, to make mistakes.
For the Preservation of Personal BOUNDARIES, You Have the Right . . .
* to be touched only with your permission, and only in ways that are comfortable.
* to choose to speak or remain silent, about any topic or at any moment.
* to choose to accept or decline feedback, suggestions, or interpretations.
* to ask for help in healing, without having to accept help with work, play, or love.
* to challenge any crossing of your boundaries.
* to take appropriate action to end any trespass that does not cease when challenged.
In the Sphere of Personal COMMUNICATION, You Have the Right . . .
* to ask for explanation of communications you do not understand.
* to express a contrary view when you do understand and you disagree.
* to acknowledge your feelings, without having to justify them as assertions of fact or actions affecting others.
* to ask for changes when your needs are not being met.
* to speak of your experience, with respect for your doubts and uncertainties.
* to resolve doubt without deferring to the views or wishes of anyone.
Specific to the DOMAIN of Psychotherapy, You Have the Right . . .
* to hire a therapist or counselor as coach, not boss, of your recovery.
* to receive expert and faithful assistance in healing from your therapist.
* to be assured that your therapist will refuse to engage in any other relationship with you — business, social, or sexual — for life.
* to be secure against revelation of anything you have disclosed to your therapist, unless a court of law commands it.
* to have your therapist’s undivided loyalty in relation to any and all perpetrators, abusers, or oppressors.
* to receive informative answers to questions about your condition, your hopes for recovery, the goals and methods of treatment, the therapist’s qualifications.
* to have a strong interest by your therapist in your safety, with a readiness to use all legal means to neutralize an imminent threat to your life or someone else’s.
* to have your therapist’s commitment to you not depend on your “good behaviour,” unless criminal activity or ongoing threats to safety are involved.
* to know reliably the times of sessions and of your therapist’s availability, including, if you so desire, a commitment to work together for a set term.
* to telephone your therapist between regular scheduled sessions, in urgent need, and have the call returned within a reasonable time.
* to be taught skills that lessen risk of trauma:
(a) containment (reliable temporal/spatial boundaries for recovery work);
(b) systematic relaxation;
(c) control of attention and imagery (through trance or other techniques).
* to reasonable physical comfort during sessions.