Sandy contacted KidsAid to seek help for her 8-year-old son, Toby, who had been exposed to years of domestic violence.
During Toby’s assessment, it became apparent that in addition to Toby needing therapy, support for Sandy was also needed. Sandy felt unable to talk about the incidences of domestic violence and the impact this was having on them both; she said she felt ‘stuck’ in a fight/flight response and was still struggling with high levels of anxiety. As a result, in addition to Toby having support, it was recommended that Sandy also have a combination of counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), to further support her son.
At Sandy’s assessment, Sandy and her therapist established that the aim of her therapy sessions was to help her to overcome trauma from the psychological and physical abuse from her ex-partner; improve her self-esteem; reduce her anxiety; and to be more able to communicate with her son.
From the outset Sandy engaged well with her sessions. Themes emerged early on, including the sense of not being heard, or having a voice. Sandy was trying to move on from her trauma but also to make a shift towards greater independence from the over-protectiveness of her mother. In parallel, Sandy had been trying to protect Toby from further trauma and, herself too, by avoiding talking about Toby’s father and what happened.
Sandy shared that she often felt overwhelmed and anxious, fearing that she would ‘explode’ and that Toby would be taken into care. Through her sessions, Sandy identified that she was always planning, in an attempt to keep worries at bay but this overthinking and desperation to maintain control and be vigilant was exhausting her.
As sessions progressed, Sandy moved on to explore CBT principles with her therapist, challenging some of her negative thought patterns and behaviours, which, with practice, reduced Sandy’s anxiety substantially. As a result, Sandy was able to express her own wants and needs and her experience of feeling trapped in a fight/flight response lessened.
As Sandy found her voice, she shared that she was able to make changes in her life, to advocate for her own needs which led to shifts in her work, her mothering, and her relationships with her parents and friends. The shift to greater independence and an increased sense of agency, competence and empowerment was an important and vital part of Sandy’s healing from the trauma.
By the end of therapy, Sandy realised that referring Toby to KidsAid, had been probably more about her own unmet/unacknowledged need of therapeutic support for herself. That, until she was able to speak about the domestic violence herself without becoming distraught, she would not be able to talk about it with Toby.
A sign of Sandy’s development was demonstrated in her final therapy session when she shared that she and Toby had discussed their trauma together, which was a great relief for them both. Sandy reflected that with KidsAid’ s support, her relationship with Toby had strengthened and that both her and Toby felt empowered to move forward with their lives.
“I can only say that KidsAid have been incredible. All my therapy sessions put me in a good mood and brought back the light in my life which was lost for a while. I finally feel hopeful about the future. I have learned how to accept the past and live with what life brings to me now. My thinking has changed and approach to life. I feel I am a better Mum. We can finally move forwards with our lives.”