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The Memory Debate

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Help in finding the best person to talk to.

If you as a Christian leader are approached to help a survivor, please be aware of your limitations and that to help people in this area requires years of training and experience. Please do not dabble but refer the survivor to someone who is equipped to deal with the needs.

It is important for church leaders to be able to obtain the best available help for those who approach us with memories of sexual abuse. The guidelines are concise but do not claim to be complete, they are also no guarantee of success:

  1. Examine the qualifications of the professional*.
    Degrees or qualification in Psychiatry, Psychology, Therapy, Counselling or Social Work are generally signs of competence and expertise.
  2. Ask to which society or association the professional belongs. Recognition by a group or body that has national recognition is vital.
  3. Enquire what regular peer supervision the professional has and the name and qualification of the supervisor. If there is no ongoing supervision you should ask why, as this is a vital element suggested by many of the major national associations.
  4. Evaluate the techniques or therapies that the professional uses, if the professional adheres strictly to just one school of thought this may prevent objectivity in treatment. Some techinques are offensive to Christian belief and their use or non-use should be discussed at the outset.
  5. Look at manner of the professional, are they; sympathetic to the beliefs of the client; concerned for the clients wellbeing; attentive to the client and their needs; friendly and amiable in their dealings; encouraging and trustworthy.
  6. Ask what the beliefs of the professional are about religion, child abuse, recovered memory, ritual abuse, etc.
  7. Ensure that the Survivor remains in control and that it is he or she who decides which professional they agree to see. If the survivor has any concerns about any of the therapies, seek a second opinion and discuss the concerns with the professional.
  8. Don't underplay or under-estimate the role that the church and you as their minister will play in the overall and ongoing help of the survivor when talking to the professional, and be wary of any professional who attemps to play down or marginalise the church's role.
  9. Don't be overawed by titles, positions or letters after the names of the professional. If they will not answer questions they are not as professional as they think and may not be the right person for the survivor to see.
  10. Pray: I will assume that you began here but the choice of a suitable professional by the survivor is vital and your ongoing prayerful care and support is crucial.

* a professional is a psychiatrist, psychologist, psycho-therapist, therapists, Christian counsellors, counsellors and may include social workers, psychiatric nurses and church ministers and Christian ministries.

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