First Steps counselling

image: counselling

image: First steps logoWorking in domestic violence refuges across Kent, First Steps Counselling provides emotional support to women and children fleeing abusive homes. 

Highly trained professional counsellors assist in the recovery of traumatic domestic events to build self esteem and enable a fresh start for those affected.  The demand for this service is far beyond what we can meet so funding for this project is in desperate need.
 

Our approach

Our counselling is based on the premise that the people who use our services are the experts on their own lives and experiences. We provide a relationship to help victims of domestic violence make sense of their experiences so they can take the first steps to feeling in control of every aspect of their life.

Impact of domestic violence on children

Domestic violence can have an enormous effect on a child's mental health. Evidence shows children living in families where there's violence between parents can lead to serious long term emotional effects. Even if they are not physically harmed, children can suffer lasting emotional and psychological damage, as a result of witnessing violence. They may be encouraged to take part in bullying or threatening a parent, or be threatened by one parent as a way of controlling the other.
 

Case study: Karen and her baby

image: Karen's storyKaren, a young mother, came to the refuge with her one year old daughter. She had fled from her abusive and controlling boyfriend, the father of her baby.

He had not allowed her out of the house unaccompanied and she would have to sleep during the day and be awake for him when he returned from his night shift, so she could attend to his needs.

He had no interaction with his daughter, and refused to let mum go to the baby when she cried. The only time she could care for her daughter was when her boyfriend was not there. Due to her depression and high anxiety and the fact that she too had been a neglected child from a very strict and religious family she struggled to meet her baby’s needs. Her mother died when she was a teenager it was a very hard time for her, from which she never really recovered. This left her in a very vulnerable state when she met her boyfriend.

Both mother and baby were suffering symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Mum was very numb and detached from her emotions, struggling to cope with what had happened to her. Baby was under developed, she could not speak or play or even raise much of a smile. Mum was concerned about her daughters pale complexion and lethargic behaviour.

Mother and baby were referred for counselling.

At the beginning it was difficult to get the baby’s attention. It all started with a small soft ball. The counsellor would roll the ball to the baby and one day she rolled it back to her.  Mum was encouraged to engage with this and eventually she sat on the mat too and rolled the ball to her daughter. The ball rolled past her and she got up, picked it up and rolled it to her mum.  At that moment they made eye contact, she smiled at her daughter and her face beamed she ran to her and mum held her in her arms.

As the sessions progressed the young child came out of her shell more and more.  Mum was taking the lead in playing, speaking and guiding her daughter. She began to notice the toys that were immediately around her and played with them. She began to explore the nursery a little further each session. She became interested in the toys and even the boxes and cupboards they were kept in.  She came to realise there were windows which looked outside. She was no longer afraid of the loud noises the workmen made next door or the fire alarm which went off every week during her session. It still made her jump but she was not afraid and didn’t cry anymore, she had her mum there who made her feel safe.

Mum became more attentive towards her daughter and began to recognise her needs, they were able to communicate with each other without the words her daughter couldn’t speak. This all helped build mum’s confidence, she gained self belief and started to trust her own judgement, particularly when it came to her daughter. The love and affection she showed her caused their bond to grow much deeper and stronger.

After nearly twelve months of counselling she was a confident toddler, always smiling and chatting in her own way. She started nursery and eventually they moved out of the refuge into their new home to start their journey of building a new life.

Our counselling services are already oversubscribed and the demand for them is ever increasing.  We need your help to support more mothers and children, like Karen and her daughter, to make a life changing difference to more lives.
 
 

Case study: Joseph's story

AdobeStock_35902072-sad-boy-First-Steps-Counselling-(3).jpegJoseph's mother, Molly, hadn't bonded with him when he was a baby, due to the effects of domestic abuse. She was made to leave him screaming and was forbidden to pick him up unless he needed feeding or changing. Eventually he stopped crying. Molly was bereft, she felt like a failure. She felt pain in her stomach when her baby cried. Drinking alcohol was her only respite from despair.

At the age of four when he came to Fresh Visions' counselling services, Joseph resembled an autistic child. He had an unusual stare, lashed out at his mother and was difficult to control, showing no emotional attachment to her. He was offered play therapy in hope it would start the missed bonding process. Play therapy was challenging at first as he lashed out and did not trust the process. It took a long time, but through play and counselling he started to come out of his shell and trust the world was safe.

His mother was given parenting and specific advice on bonding and attachment methods. She was encouraged to praise him and not to focus on his bad behaviour unless there were risks. Eventually they started to bond.

With time and progress he started to smile and developed a loving relationship with his mother.

With your help we can support more mothers like Molly and more children like Joseph.