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Truthful, beneficial and respectful – how clients feel about being asked ‘hard questions’

Research studies, several peak bodies and our own practice wisdom tell us the same thing: we as service providers need to screen families for many risks when they use our services.

We can’t shirk responsibility to our clients for informing us about violence in families or in relationships. This issue, like many others, may be shameful, carefully concealed or minimised as ‘that’s just what happens’. But given this is a hard topic, how do our clients feel about being asked the ‘hard questions’ by us?

In May 2015, we asked well over 100 clients using family and relationships counselling services to give us anonymous feedback on our ‘paperwork’. These documents include being asked about risks in families. The short version of the results was that clients found our paperwork truthful, beneficial and respectful. And the long version: client overwhelmingly said they were truthful in their answers; saw the process as beneficial to them – even if they themselves were not at risk of harm; and they said that we asked them hard questions respectfully. We take that as a mandate to continue screening families for risk when they use our services.

Full details of the study will be revealed in a poster presentation by Dr Lee and Dr Ralfs at the ANROWS Inaugural National Research Conference on Violence against Women and their Children. For more information about this conference go to

If you are seeking training and/or professional development in Family and Domestic Violence, check out the AVERT Family Violence Training for free online training courses or the more comprehensive The Family Law DOORS training program which has been specifically designed for professionals working in the family law sector.

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