Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Trust is one of those abstract concepts everyone seems to hold a different opinion about. It appears to be hard to define in any definite terms. But I'd like to share the insights I've gained about trust through my work as a student social worker.

In my first internship in my master's program in social work, I worked in a safe house and transitional housing unit. Not only had many of these women been abused by their former partners, but they had also been abused by family members and friends, people they thought they could trust.

And yet, here I was asking them to trust me, a total stranger. While I have suffered my own significant traumas, I couldn't ethically blurt this out to all the women in the safe house. While the statement might have shown them that I could relate to them, the statement might also make them warier of trusting me. They might feel as if I were too fragile to help them or that they needed to listen to me rather than my doing my job as their counselor.

Thus, I had to figure out different ways of earning their trust, and I did. I built rapport with the mothers and their children by spending a lot of time with them, eating dinner with them, attending their group sessions with them, talking about how their day was, and about their children. I also got to know each child by spending time with them - playing and talking with them, and just allowing them to be the carefree children they deserved to be.

It took two or three months before one mom, which the staff had a particularly hard time connecting with, began to trust me. We took things in baby steps. I got to know her - her likes and dislikes, what she did during the day, her ambitions, and so forth. Eventually, I let her know that if she ever needed to talk that I was available to help her. Opening the therapeutic door for her was an enormous step, one she wasn't ready to take before my internship ended. However, being able to really connect with this woman showed her that there are people out here to support her. I really think the trust she and I built together was monumental considering all that she had been through, and I was truly amazed at how much she accomplished in the short time we had spent together.

So, what is trust exactly? As I said earlier, trust is really difficult to define, but here is what I believe trust is. Trust is being able to count on someone, to know that you can confide in someone and that that someone won't defy your confidence. Trust is being able to share your innermost throughts, feelings, dreams, and ambitions with someone and that same someone should be able to share theirs with you. When you trust someone, you know that person will not judge you based merely on situational circumstances, but rather, they will look past situations and behaviors to seeing your core being.

I believe trust has to built over a period of time. If you have never been through significant trauma, trust might come more easily to you whereas those who have been abused or traumatized might need to take more time to get to know someone before they begin to place any trust in that person.

I believe trust is earned. And when it is broken, you have to re-earn the trust you lost.

If you're having trouble trusting or struggling with the fact that a friend or family member doesn't trust you, tune in later this week to learn how you can cope with these issues.

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