Research-based Recovery Information*
for Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse and Adversity



The expression "fly in the ointment" is, I guess, a description of where something that is meant to help in healing is spoilt by something that is unhealthy, or even harmful, to the person using the ointment.  Sadly, that is the situation confronting many survivors of childhood sexual abuse in Dunedin.  I've written before about how unhelpful, even harmful, Ashburn Clinic is for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The question thus arises: Where DO I get safe and effective treatment then???

I'm sorry, I can't tell you -- because I haven't found such "safe and effective" treatment and support services for those suffering Complex Trauma -- not in Australia, and not in New Zealand, and most certainly not in Dunedin.

It's easy to say that services from a particular agency are "inferior" yet fail to achieve any change in those services -- as I've written about in the past about the LACK of response I've had to complaints I've lodged with the Psychologists Board and the Health and Disability Commissioner -- there are NO specialist standards in place for adult survivors -- leaving the adult survivor unprotected as a consumer of such services -- so long as "illlegal" practices aren't occurring, the consumer is helpless, without a means of redress, or even channel for pursuing a complaint.  Barring illegal activity, it's OPEN SLATHER -- therapists and agencies can do what they please, and do.

BUT -- consumers, yes, you're alone when it comes to struggling with agencies (and government) services, BUT there are steps you can take to protect yourself. The recommendations below apply, I believe, and will serve to help you be more effective should you one day wish to lodge a complaint with a professional society, or the Health and Disability Commission.

And charity funders (since agencies providing such services are often charitable trusts), PLEASE DON'T  FUND such agencies until and unless they have, and can demonstrate, adequate provisions are in place to protect consumers.

So, how do you find "safe therapy", or at least "safe support"?

Firstly, find an "effective" treatment -- an important preliminary question starting to attract a great deal of attention! The field of trauma therapy has for decades been littered by the "bodies" of those who have received "inadequate and inappropriate treatment" from poorly informed would-be "therapists" -- and what's effective FOR YOU might very well be ineffective for someone else, and vice versa, so simply getting "a buddy's opinion" might well not be good enough.

"How do you find "effective therapy?"

For a number of reasons, this is not an easy question to answer. As a preliminary, I'd get someone you trust to review, in discussion with you, the following article by Coyne and Nok (2014)   [LINK]   explain it to you, then check out any queries you have by asking the would-be therapist -- this has the possible negative side effect of some therapists thinking you suffer from a "Narcissistic Personality Disorder" -- dismiss those first off -- increasing consumer "literacy" in all things, especially in their health care should be a priority for all clinicians / therapists, and the costs are very real -- YOU will have to pay those costs, and so are entitled to have your questions answered.

Further, to find "safe therapy" or "safe support" I'd recommend the following as some good sources:

In general: -- here [LINK]

Remember, this is an American site, with dates in Month/Day/Year format!

This site recommends at least the following

How to choose a counselor or therapist:

Warning Signs of Unhealthy Therapy:

The book: Victims No Longer by Mike Lew  -- in Dunedin library -- call number 362.768 LEW

which, before someone takes part in the group the group leader needs to advise someone against taking part if the prospective member:

In such cases, individual contact with a therapist is best advised

The 5 Essentials of Effective Trauma Therapy: -- see my previous post on this topic, and this page [LINK]

  1. a recognition and acceptance, by the therapist and the client that "You have suffered, but things can change for the better"
  2. Skills building

  3. a strength orientation -- an understanding of how symptoms have worked in the past as coping skills -- and thus therapy involves a loss, of symptoms, but has benefits as well

  4. the recognition by the client that during therapy "I felt safe" -- as the therapy was well structured and explained to the client whenever requested by the client, with the therapist regularly checking on the client's understanding and acceptance of therapy processes; and as a result, therapy was predictable, had known boundaries, goals, structure -- this feeling of safety is essential for change to occur, The therapist needs to say "You tell me how to act", and act in a collaborative, elaborative way.

  5. therapy must involve the creation of "workable realities" -- requiring the therapist to know at all times what they're doing; the client is confident that the therapy is evidence-based; and involves the creation of a workable future, in a concrete, defined way, and not just positive thinking

Importantly, I believe, are the elements "I felt safe"  and how this feeling can be destroyed by the presence in the relationship by the therapist's displaying any of the "warning signs" listed above; and, if not expressed in these terms, certainly consistent with a "Client-Directed, Outcome-Informed" process, where the client's voice is privileged -- discussed in more detail on this site   [LINK]

The client's voice is privileged -- the client's views, and goals, are prioritised, NOT the therapists,

An important part of safety, stated plainly in the presentation by Barrett in her 5 Essentials is that survivors should NOT be pressured into disclosing more than they are comfortable -- this could well involve, initially -- only acknowledging that they have suffered abuse or trauma.  Sure, if THEY choose, they can disclose more, but this is left for the client to decide, if and when they choose, and should NOT be an expectation of the therapist, or group leader -- particularly, if it's in a support group, if the group leader has NOT been disclosing of their own story.

If you wish to lodge a complaint, be careful how and where you do so:

This site gives grounds for defence against defamation:  [LINK]

Simply: the statement must be

  1. TRUE
  2. in the PUBLIC GOOD

The law assumes all defamatory statements are untrue -- the law is on the "plaintiff's side" -- where the plaintiff is the professional you're criticising -- so you must be able to prove your statement -- how to do so -- doing a written record of each session, recorded as close in time to the session as possible, and any concerns you have about its content, can help.