How to effectively self-advocate

How to effectively self-advocate

There may be times when you must act as your own advocate when working with the court systems, CPS, healthcare, or other agencies. What does this mean? Self-advocacy means that you are asking for what you want/need and participating in decisions that may impact your life. The most important step in self-advocating is to believe in yourself, know that you are worthwhile and absolutely deserving of being heard and of getting your needs met. It can be difficult when we have feelings of low self-esteem, are afraid, or feel intimidated to ask for the things we need so it is important to assess and appreciate your strengths, to not self-blame, and to believe in yourself. Know that you have the right to ask questions and to be treated with respect. Here are some self-empowering steps to being your own advocate.

1. Breathe. Deep breathing gives your body oxygen, clears the mind, and calms you helping you to think clearer.

2. Think about what you are advocating for and what your goal is. Make a list of your needs/wants to refer to when self-advocating. When possible write down the names, numbers, e-mail addresses of everyone you want to contact.

3. Do your homework. Know who you need to talk to and be clear when asking for what you want. If you don’t believe your needs are being met, respectfully ask to speak to someone with more authority.

4. Speak clearly; telling the other person exactly what it is you want and why. Know what points you want to make and don’t be distracted. Stay on the point.

5. Listen and be respectful. The other person needs time to respond to what you are saying. Try to stay calm and respectful even if the other person displays impatience or rudeness. If you get angry it will make it harder for you to achieve your goals. Remember you have the right to ask to speak to someone else.

6. Be patient and don’t expect immediate results. Changes may take time, but be persistent, don’t give up. Believe in yourself. It may take time and effort on your part to reach your goal.

7. Don’t be afraid to ask for more time when making decisions. If you are in a meeting and you need time to think ask for a break. If you don’t understand something ask for clarification.

8. When making calls keep a call log of the person you spoke with, date and time, and a brief description of what was said, and what action if any was decided upon. If you do not get results, actions are not taken when promised, or if you had to leave a message and you do not hear back from the person, call again until you reach the person and a solution is found.

9. If you are writing letters, always keep a copy for your files and follow up with a call or email to ensure that the letter was received. Request a “Read” and “Delivery” receipt when sending an email.

10. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help, everyone needs help at one time or another. This is also part of self-advocacy.

The Cowlitz Tribe Pathways to Healing Program offers free confidential Advocacy services to all Native American/Alaska Natives who has been/are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or other violence. For more information please call 360-397-8228 or email


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