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What to expect from Dactari domestic abuse counselling

For those of you who are wondering what it might be like to do counselling for domestic abuse, one of our therapists, Karen, has written a blog to share what you might expect to happen.

Our therapists are trained within the person-centred approach where you bring whatever you need to bring to the therapy. The counsellor is there to work alongside you, to understand your story and help you to see different aspects of it, as you look at and unpack what you have been through. We use an integrative approach which means combining techniques from other therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) where we believe these will be helpful to meet your needs.

Counselling begins with you discussing the issues that are important to you and, as you get to know your therapist more, you hopefully feel comfortable discussing more about your experience. Therapy may be the first time you have told someone about your experience. We know this can be a big deal at the time, but we also know you can feel great relief when talking out loud about something hidden or secret. The effect of bringing these memories out into the open often leads to more memories, some good, some not so good, but all relevant in recovering from your domestic abuse experience.

Although people generally come to counselling to seek help with their issues, and many people do feel better after sharing their story with their therapist, it is important to note that a small number of people feel worse before they feel better. Counselling can bring you face to face with unpleasant parts of your life that have been hidden away for good reason, protecting you and allowing you to carry on despite what happened. What was unconscious is now conscious and present within the session.

These sorts of memories can be related to past traumatic events and can have different effects on you. You may have sessions where you feel good during the session but less so the next day. Alternatively, you may feel low at the time but much better the day after. Whilst it can be difficult and uncomfortable to face the emotions associated with your experience, your counsellor will be alongside you, and supporting you, each step of the way. Working through trauma can be challenging and yet it is this work that most often results in recovery and new life and direction for clients. However, we appreciate that you have a life outside of the therapy session and, if the timing of the work is not right for you because of other things going on in your life, you can always take a break until you feel ready to come back again.

At Dactari, your therapist has ways to help you work at a level that feels ok for you, challenging but manageable. There are grounding techniques to reduce any feelings of being overwhelmed, keeping you safe mentally and emotionally. We work with the impact of what happened to you and can help you to identify when your feelings are becoming difficult to contain and provide ways to help you to manage this before it becomes overwhelming. The therapist will work at your pace, and you will not be forced to discuss parts you are not ready to face yet. There is always something that can be usefully explored: we don’t always look at the things that cause the most pain, sometimes it is important to look at happier and funnier things that have happened in your life too.

Counsellors offer a review session, usually around the sixth session, to check in with you and see if you are finding the sessions beneficial. Please don’t feel you have to wait until the sixth session to report on your experience of the therapy, as your counsellor can do more of what you find helpful or less of what you find less helpful, before then.

Finally, it is important to know that healing and recovery are not linear; you can feel progress in certain areas of your life while simultaneously feeling stagnant in other parts. Your progress may not be as smooth as the upwards trajectory of a plane at take-off but instead resemble the ups and downs of a rollercoaster. Please know that on the days you may feel you are moving backwards you are not, it is part of the journey, and it just means there is more to explore and understand.


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