by Mark D. Lerner, Ph.D.
Chairman, National Center for Emotional Wellness
CEO & Creator, TruthJava.com
When faced with the opportunity to support those who have experienced harm, it is common to feel uncertain about how to best assist them. To alleviate this uncertainty, here is a compilation of practical strategies that can be utilized to provide immediate assistance:
1. Be there and listen. It’s generally not what we say
that helps people the most, it’s often what we don’t
2. Be empathic. Try to communicate an understanding
of the feelings behind another person’s words.
3. When appropriate, use physical touch or a warm
4. Instead of being an expert in solving other’s problems, strive to become an expert in helping others
to find the answers within themselves (e.g., “If you were the way you would ideally like to be, what
would you say?”).
5. Tell people what they need to do when their safety, or the safety of others, is compromised (e.g.,
“You need to share this with your family.” “We need to notify the police, now.” “Let’s turn to your
6. During challenges and change, try to normalize and validate other’s experiences (e.g., “This must
be scary, I’m here for you.”), instead of using cliches (e.g., “It could have been worse.”).
7. Realize that children, particularly young children, take their cues from the adults around them. When
asked, tell children the truth at a developmentally and personally appropriate level.
8. Encourge people to use strategies that foster emotional wellness. Give genuine compliments.
9. Keep others’ thoughts and feelings in confidence—unless they could present a danger to
themselves or others (if so, call 911).
10. Know that people never forget what others do during peak emotional experiences. As it has been
said, “They may forget what you said—but they will never forget the way you made them feel.”