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Recently, we introduced you to Shirin, one of our long-time Women’s Counsellor Advocates. Each month, we’ll be shadowing Shirin to give you an idea of what a day’s work is like as a counsellor at Interval House.
When residents move into Interval House, they’re assigned a case manager – a staff member who will be their main counsellor, advocate, and point of contact for the duration of their stay. In last month’s post, Shirin started working with Lani* as her Case Manager. But Lani’s not the only women Shirin’s working with right now. Today, she has an individual counselling session scheduled with Patricia*, another woman in the shelter. Patricia has two young children, and Shirin is working with her to help her through the trauma of leaving an abusive relationship, but also getting everything in place to rebuild her family’s lives once they leave Interval House.
While they’re staying at Interval House, women need to schedule time to meet with their case manager once every week. Their case manager will help them apply for housing, social assistance, make referrals to other services like mental health professionals or ESL classes, and help them navigate the court system if needed. The weekly meeting is a chance to make sure that everything’s on track and to check in to see how the resident is doing, and if she needs further support. And outside of these scheduled meetings, there’s a Counsellor Advocate like Shirin on shift 24/7 to speak with any woman who just needs a listening ear.
When Patricia first moved into the shelter a couple months ago, she was reluctant to do individual counselling. This isn’t uncommon. Shirin often sees women moving in to the shelter who are initially reluctant to open up to a counsellor. Sometimes they want to keep everything private. Or maybe they’re scared that telling a counsellor what happened will get them in trouble legally.
“We try to make our environment so that they feel comfortable,” Shirin says. “We can’t force them to talk to us, but if they trust us, then they are more likely to open up.”
When Patricia first started working with Shirin, she was very frustrated and disappointed with her situation. But, over the course of the months she’s been at the shelter, she’s begun to open up more and more. She describes her experience participating in counselling groups as “empowering.” Shirin has helped her navigate the separation process from her husband, and has helped her find educational support for her two daughters who were struggling at school.
Individual counselling and case management is so important for women like Patricia because it allows them to go through their unique personal issues in detail. All women living at Interval House have survived domestic violence, but the effects of violence are different for every woman. And knowing that she has someone with her, helping her along her individual journey, is often what a woman needs to be able to take those first steps to independence.
For the next few months, we’ll be giving you a glimpse into Shirin’s work, taking you step-by-step through a day in the life of a counsellor at Interval House. Stay tuned for the next part in our series, when we follow Shirin through a counselling group.
*Names and some details have been changed for safety and privacy.