The doorbell rang and two happy, boisterous young boys came running into the office. It was Katie’s last counseling session at Radiant Futures, and she wanted her Clinical Advocate to meet her children. Both boys gave a big smile and ran back to their mother, hugging her legs. This was the first time Katie would need childcare during her session. The boys were led to the children’s room and cheerfully scoped out the toy selection. Katie and her Advocate proceeded to the therapy room, sat down, and took a deep breath together.
In that moment, all of Katie’s hard work had paid off.
Katie was first introduced to the counseling program through a referral by her Personal Empowerment Program (PEP) Instructor at Radiant Futures. During her first session, she was very reserved, her voice nearly inaudible as anxiety escaped her body through a constantly shaking foot. Her children had recently been removed from her custody due to domestic violence by her husband. Separated from her husband and the only relationship she’d ever known, Katie was confused, lonely, and traumatized by the violence she had endured.
Over time, she began to open up about her experiences, tearfully explaining that she thought all relationships were like hers. Through counseling, she was able to build her self-esteem, connect with her inherent value, and incorporate new coping skills. Her voice became stronger, her foot began to still, and she even began to reconnect to her humorous side.
Katie learned about healthy relationships, how to set boundaries, and how to manage the symptoms of PTSD which had previously led to her isolation. PTSD is commonly associated with domestic violence—symptoms include hypervigilance (being easily startled, feeling on edge, irritability), flashbacks (mentally re-experiencing traumatic events), avoidance (staying away from people, places, or objects that are reminders of the trauma), and cognitive changes (poor memory, depressed mood, feelings of shame or guilt).* These distressing symptoms often cause individuals to disengage from loved ones and life in general. Counseling can aid clients in learning to navigate and reduce the impact of PTSD, leading to improved mental health and long-term outcomes for survivors of trauma.
Katie’s work in counseling and growing sense of self allowed her to share more in PEP classes. She described finding great value in connecting with other women who had experiences like hers. She became empowered to seek new employment and pressed charges against her abuser, all while constantly working to regain custody of her children. Through a rigorous daily commitment to her own healing and building a new life for her children, Katie was able to get her kids back.
At her last session, Katie beamed with pride and shared about her plans for the future. As she and her sons left the office and walked out into the sun, her Advocate envisioned the cycle of abuse ending for this family. Katie is proof that there is life beyond violence, a life filled with peace, opportunity, and hope. If you or someone you know could benefit from domestic violence counseling, please contact the Radiant Futures Helpline at 877-351-5522.
*Information from the National Institute of Mental Health, 2019. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml