Haven House Student Blog

My name is Shannon, and I’m doing a student placement at Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, mostly at Haven House.

Something that I have learned quickly about women making the decision to leave a relationship is that there may be many factors preventing them from leaving. They may have all of the information they need to make the decision and the supports in place… but they are still unable to take that step. One factor that had not occurred to me before was the emotional aspect as a factor contributing to them staying in a relationship. Sometimes, women may still be grieving the relationship, and even though they know that it is not a healthy one and they need to leave, what keeps them there is that they are not ready to feel the sadness associated with the loss. It might feel easier to stay, as they are worried about how they will manage their feelings after leaving. They may be worried about how to reach out for support, or what to do when they are missing their ex-partner.

As a student intern, I have been supporting women to figure out the best decisions for themselves, with the approach that they know themselves best. In doing this work, it helps to keep in mind that regardless of a woman’s situation, it can take time for her to come to terms with the idea that leaving the relationship is her best bet. Even when women’s personal safety, or the safety of their children, is at risk, they still need to be ready to make that move to leave. Understanding this mindset is an important one when providing therapy for women who are in abusive relationships so that we can maintain a client-centred approach.

As counsellors, we encourage women to make the best decisions for themselves, but we also equip them with the information and support that they need to make those decisions. We do not tell women what to do, but we talk about the effect abuse has on them, both long and short term, and the effect it has on their children. As a result, we discuss their options with them and help them to figure out which of those options are most appropriate for their situations and needs.