How To Communicate With Vulnerable Cients: Tips From a Psychologist

Building an effective communication has always been a prerequisite for achieving a result in the process of providing professional assistance. To accomplish this task, a lawyer needs to develop professional competence in the field of interpersonal communication. Consequently one of the key topics of the “Tomorrow’s Lawyer” Program was the theme “Building Effective Communication with the Client”. However, often the construction of such a dialogue is complicated by the difficult emotional states of the client and destructive behavioral reactions (refusal to speak, manifestations of aggression or apathy, etc.). The reason for such behavior could be the traumatic experience of the client and the difficult present life circumstances.

Taking into account the peculiarities of the client’s condition will help the lawyer to establish a constructive dialogue. Olena Savchuk, a psychologist, associate professor of the Department of Social Work at National University Kyiv Mohyla Academy, shared her tips on building communication with vulnerable groups of clients for the participants of the “Tomorrow’s Lawyer” Program which were published by the Yuirydychna Gazeta (Legal Newspaper) Weekly.

Which clients belong to vulnerable groups?

The first thing that needs to be understood is that anyone can fall into a vulnerability situation. This is a condition where a person can not cope with the particular circumstances in which he or she has fallen. By way of example, such situation may be the loss of housing, employment, violent behavior, death of beloved ones, etc. The vulnerability is determined by the problem in which the person is, and his/her behavior varies according to the specifics of a particular phenomenon. Therefore, when we talk about vulnerability, you first need to understand the nature of the circumstances suffered by a person.

Depending on their impact on a person, there are three types of traumatic situations:

stress (a person quickly adapts and copes with the situation);

crisis (the situation destroys the general perception of a person and he/she is looking for auxiliary resources from the outside, which can be alcohol and drugs as a way to cope with the situation);

and trauma (the situation is so negative and harmful to the human psyche that a person fails to immediately process and accept all the information, therefore this condition remains for a long time and this experience can be lived for several months or even years. This state does not reflect the usual human behavior, since it has been changed due to the situation in which the person is).

Each person handles the traumatic experience in different ways, and we do not know how we will react or behave in each particular situation. Therefore, the main task of a specialist when working with vulnerable groups of clients is non-stigmatization and understanding of the nature of the condition which the person experiences at the moment.