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Faculty of Social Work


This handbook is the culmination of a multiphase, multidisciplinary research project that used grounded theory and participatory action research to illuminate ways that healthcare providers can work sensitively (in a trauma-informed way) with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

The research identified nine Principles of Sensitive Practice: respect, rapport, taking time, sharing information and control, respecting boundaries, fostering mutual learning, understanding non-linear healing and demonstrating an understanding of trauma to patients. Specific guidelines were developed for a wide variety of issues pertinent to clinical practice such as, removal of clothing, touch, responding to disclosures of abuse, managing triggers among others.

The methodology included interviews with women and men adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse from across Canada about how healthcare practitioners can be sensitive to their needs as survivors. It also included learnings from group meetings where survivors and healthcare practitioners discussed together ways healthcare practice could better respond to the needs of survivors. Written feedback received from physicians, nurses, dentists and dental hygienists, physical and occupational therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, kinesiologists, professional regulators, mental health professionals and survivors from across Canada ensured that suggestions for clinical practice reflected both survivor needs and the realities of clinical practice.

We concluded that because healthcare providers are not always aware that they are working with individuals who have experienced childhood trauma, clinicians should apply these principles and guidelines universally in order to work in a trauma-informed manner with all patients.