I struggle with the idea of trauma therapy/therapy for survivors/pre-trial therapy as ‘specialist’. Therapists will meet survivors of many different kinds of trauma (abuse, domestic violence, racial harm, ableism, classism, etc.) wherever we work. It is not an uncommon clinical phenomenon, it is daily life for many.
This equally applies to the topic of pre-trial therapy. For all clients, we are ethically required to be
aware of any guidance or legislation that is relevant to them and the issues they need support with.
As such, I struggle with the idea that pre-trial therapy is a ‘specialist’ area as any client could be the victim of any crime with an active report, investigation, or trial whilst we’re working with them. As a therapist, if you are under confident on working within the guidelines, it is therefore not ethical to offer therapy pre-trial. The same would apply to any other client/area you do not have training nor experience for. You can read on to learn more and become better equipped to do this work.
Opportunities to Support Clients
We have an opportunity to provide a supportive and helpful experience for the relatively brief amount of time we work with a survivor. It shouldn’t be down to luck as to whether a client gets what they need within a largely inaccessible mental heath system. If they have navigated the system to meet you, as well navigating their mental health to get to an appointment, we should step up accordingly.
The guidelines apply to any client who is a victim of any crime – not just survivors of abuse. The fact that they are disproportionately applied to people reporting sexual offences and offences related to domestic violence, is systemic discrimination. Seek training, information and support to make your time with a client count. We meet clients at a sensitive and important time, so let’s do what’s needed to step up and offer the support they deserve.
This is especially true when working in the NHS/third sector when someone has waited months (or longer) to access therapy and may not have the option to request a type of therapy/therapist they need to feel safe.
Taking Action for Your Clients
To learn more about working pre-trial you can access the Crown Prosecution Service guidelines on the CPS website, view reels I’ve done on this topic, read articles/book chapter I’ve written and approach me for training/consultancy.
Whilst still problematic in practice, the new guidelines are written much more plainly and clearly than the previous ones. Most importantly: the clause that the victim of a crime can’t talk about details of said crime in therapy has been lifted. Clients can now speak freely when pre-trial and therapists can offer their services, as they would at any other time.
Take action if you recognise the system doesn’t work for survivors. Write to your MP, write to your regulatory body, demand that your training course supports you to work pre-trial, contact organisations who are opposing the restrictive guidelines to make change collectively.
More than this: listen to survivors, make space for their lived experiences and therapeutic needs, and finally make use of your professional power to advocate for and with them to make reparative change.