A year ago, survivors seeking mental health support from LifeWire had several options—one on one therapy, music therapy, and support groups. When the pandemic closed LifeWire’s office, our mental health therapists immediately adapted to working with survivors online or by phone. The shift has come with its challenges and benefits for survivors.
Many survivors who reach out for therapy and support still live in homes that are not safe places. Some survivors have had to postpone therapy because they lacked safe spaces to talk. Therapists brainstorm with survivors about how and where to hold virtual sessions. For survivors, that can mean having a phone call instead of a video chat, sitting in their car instead of their home, or shifting their session to a time when they have the most privacy.
Virtual sessions can make it harder for survivors and therapists to build trust and safety. In-person sessions make it easier for the therapist and survivor to read each other’s facial and body language. They’re also held in a benign location away from the places where violence occurs. Technology can also be an issue, whether it’s accessing stable WI-FI or learning how to use new software.
Despite these challenges, remote therapy sessions and groups have added benefits. Transportation is no longer a barrier to making an appointment. Survivors also don’t have to worry about finding childcare. Most importantly, remote therapy helps survivors mitigate the isolation of coping with domestic violence and COVID-19.
Dealing with the mental scars of abuse
Anna started seeing LifeWire’s Mental Health Therapist because she was experiencing symptoms of severe trauma. She felt numb and disoriented, had trouble focusing at work, and was having panic attacks.
Abuse, whether physical or psychological, can affect survivors’ mental health. People who experience trauma because of domestic violence are at significantly higher risk for PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Survivors may also try to escape pain and depression with substance use or consider suicide. Continue reading “Domestic Violence and Mental Health”
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so we’re turning our attention to one of the most common mental health issues affecting survivors of domestic abuse: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can develop in people who have experienced (either directly or indirectly) a scary, shocking, or dangerous event. We often think about PTSD concerning combat veterans, but it’s also common among survivors of domestic violence and other forms of abuse.
Everyone experiences trauma in their own way. If two people experience the same traumatic event, one may develop PTSD and not the other. Any traumatic event can cause PTSD, whether it was an isolated incident like a sexual assault or long-term trauma like an abusive relationship. If you’re concerned you or someone you know may have developed PTSD, read on to learn more. Continue reading “Abuse and PTSD”
Even though she’d left him, Amira’s abuser kept coming back. He forced and intimidated his way into the home that Amira shared with their five-year-old daughter Hana. He regularly followed her to work, harassing Amira in front of her customers and coworkers. Things became so bad, the 25-year-old Sudanese immigrant was forced to leave her job. Pregnant with her abuser’s child and unsure how to support two children on her own, Amira reached out to LifeWire.
With the help of her advocate, Amira connected with local resources to help meet her basic needs. She began meeting with a LifeWire mental health therapist, who helped Amira process some of the traumas she experienced after years of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Amira worked with her advocate to create a safety plan, which included seeking a protection order. LifeWire’s legal advocate connected Amira with a pro bono attorney who helped her obtain a protection plan and set up a parenting plan.
Since Amira obtained her protection order, her abuser stopped contacting her. Instead of worrying about her safety, Amira now has time to raise Hana and her infant son Abdi. Amira is working hard on her long-term goals of raising healthy and safe children, having stable housing, returning to the workforce, and becoming a U.S. citizen.
Mental health therapy can be key to helping a survivor heal from the emotional and often traumatizing effects of domestic violence. For many survivors, it is a crucial piece of recovery.
For many years, LifeWire has offered individual mental health therapy to survivors and their children as part of our advocacy services. And starting last year, LifeWire began to offer therapy groups in addition to individual support. Continue reading “Mental health therapy groups”