Recovery Bill of Rights

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.


3 thoughts on “Recovery Bill of Rights

  1. Rick Belden says:

    Thanks for this post. It’s very helpful to see all of this information in such a concise format and also very timely given that many of us are (or will be) dealing with post-holiday triggers.

    • Cynthia says:

      Thank you for taking the time to post a comment and to let me know that you have found this to be useful. I have just looked at your website and see that I have a LOT of reading to do:) So nice to ‘meet’ you.

  2. Survivors Guide says:

    Thanks for posting this. Unfortunately, there are many things on this list that survivors are taught, as a result of their abuse and often times the reaction(s) to disclosing abuse, that they are not entitled to. The systems that are in place also strip survivors of many of these rights as a result of counter-intuitive policies and procedures that re-victimize. I will be re-blogging this on our site.

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