Counselling after an assault…
How to handle a counselling session: Inputs from Margaret Edwards & Charlotte Chapman,COUNSELING TODAY
The first session after an assault is particularly challenging, and a lot rides on that session because it often determines whether a student will follow through with getting help in a timely manner. If a client in this situation feels judged, is pressed too fast for details or is offered unsolicited advice, she or he may not return for the second appointment. It is important to slow down and to support these clients as they try to make sense not only of what has happened but also their resulting reactions.
The approach of motivational interviewing, as developed by William Miller and Stephen Rollnick, is especially helpful in establishing a safe, trusting psychological environment in which to work through a trauma. Motivational interviewing is based on autonomy, collaboration and evocation. For example, asking for permission before providing information or advice and reflecting feelings rather than asking questions about what happened allows the counselor to join with the client without also joining her in the trauma. In addition, allowing the client to set the pace and goals of counseling helps her to re-establish a sense of agency in her own healing, which is important in likewise re-establishing her sense of psychological safety.
Client scenario: Anna is a college junior just getting ready to take her final exams. She walked into the counseling center today in tears and said she wanted to talk about a bad date she had two weeks ago. Anna explains that she attended a date function with Chris, the roommate of her friend Josh. At first, she says, things went pretty normally — drinks, dinner, dancing and barhopping afterward. Anna’s first indication that she might be in trouble was Chris’ insistence on pushing more drinks on her. The second occurred when Chris took her home after the function and followed her in, even after she said no. Chris repeatedly suggested they have sex and ignored Anna’s response.