Artwork © 2015 Jocelyn Patrick

The Trauma Survivor's Bill of Rights

The Recovery Bill of Rights for Trauma Survivors, written by Thomas V. Maguire, PhD (1995), provides a guide to the rights entitled to every survivor in four areas - personal authority, personal boundaries, personal communications, and the domain of psychotherapy. Ultimately, one important component of moving forward in healing is to assert your rights. You may use this guide to do so.

Thomas V. Maguire, PhD (1995) asserts:

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 behavior," 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 retraumatisation 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.

Maguire, T. V. (1995). A Recovery Bill of Rights for Trauma Survivors. The Sidran Institute. Retrieved from: