Our approach to working with women is holistic and trauma informed. Women’s lives are complicated. They often have multiple needs. We take a holistic approach which works with the whole woman, not just one issue or problem area.
Women we work with typically present with 4 or more of the following needs.
Our approach is non-judgemental and relational and we work both on a one-to-one basis and in groups.
We help women to access other specialist services and help to co-ordinate this support around the woman. It is a distinct way of working that is both holistic and psychologically informed and balances support and empathy with boundary setting, challenging and pro-social modelling.
Q: Why are women referred to you?
A: Women are referred to our holistic support service because they are facing a crisis. Sometimes they find themselves in the criminal justice system. Other times they are involved in social care services as a result of a safeguarding issue. Some are referred because they are unable to address their mental health needs through mainstream services, or are struggling to keep themselves safe. Underlying all of this is usually a history of trauma as a result of childhood abuse, domestic violence, sexual violence and neglect.
Q: So the support you provide depends on what has been happening to the woman?
A: Yes. Women who have been through trauma are significantly more likely to experience depression, anxiety, self harm and be service users of mental health services. They are more likely to live in poverty, to be repeat victims of violence, to misuse alcohol and drugs, to be diagnosed with a severe and enduring mental health problem and become involved in the criminal justice system.
Q: What kinds of issues are they trying to cope with?
A: A lot of them have low self-worth, and often come to us angry or frightened. In many cases they are socially isolated and find it difficult to take a longer term view. They often present with behaviours and coping strategies that are interpreted as anti-social. Often, they are seen as someone who is a problem rather than someone who has a problem
Q: So they feel ‘locked’ into their patterns of behaviour?
A: Yes, they can often find it hard to change their circumstances and patterns of behaviour. These issues also mean that they find it difficult to access mainstream support and a common pattern is engaging in short term, limited care when in crisis which often fails to make lasting changes to medium and long-term outcomes. They often find forming and maintaining relationships difficult and can experience their lives as chaotic. Making changes can also put them at risk of further violence and abuse.
Q: So what do you do to help break this cycle?
A: We offer a ‘trauma-informed’ system of care which involves the integration of trauma concepts and trauma sensitive responses into our day-to-day practice. The way in which we design and deliver our services takes into account a woman’s history of trauma and how this helps us to understand and help her.
Q: What does a ‘trauma-informed’ system of care look like?
A: Our services embody the principles of trauma-informed care in that they are:
- Designed to maximise safety
- Strengths-based and person-centred
- Routinely screens for trauma in the client’s history
- Recognises and responds to the role of trauma in a person’s life and the issues they present with
- Delivers interventions which raise awareness of the client’s trauma response to support their self-awareness and self-efficacy
- Creates a supportive and reflective working environment for all staff to help reduce the impact of their clients’ trauma on their own wellbeing
- Offers access to trauma-focussed psycho-educational programmes and psychological therapies
Q: What happens after a referral?
A: We assign a Caseworker to each woman as a single point of contact, providing one-to-one practical and emotional support, advocacy and case management. This allows the woman to build a sense of trust and of being valued and cared about. This is a crucial first step in creating change and is built through treating women as equals, listening, sensitive enquiry and practical support to address immediate problems and developing a woman-centred support package to meet the women’s identified needs and longer term goals.
Q: How do you support people to change?
A: With acceptance of change being a pre-condition to recovery, the Caseworker is able to give encouragement and belief in the client’s ability to change. The approach is “strengths based” and acknowledges the potential protective and supportive role of the woman’s community and familial networks. Through this approach we are able to support women to take steps to improve their circumstances and facilitate their recovery.
Q: What about the impact of your service and improved outcomes for families?
A: Working with vulnerable women holistically to make these changes can reduce demands on state services including primary and emergency healthcare, police, prisons, probation services and courts, housing and homelessness services and social care agencies. It can also significantly improve long term outcomes for the children of women with complex needs.