Abuse survivors’ ‘lives transformed’ with counselling

UP to 80% of child abuse survivors availing of the state’s National Counselling Service (NCS) say their lives were transformed by the service.

The NCS was set up nine years ago to provide free therapeutic services to those abused in childhood, with priority given to those abused in institutional care. It experienced such a flood of referrals in the wake of the Ryan report that it was given additional resources last May by Minister for Children Barry Andrews.

Confidential questionnaires completed by 352 respondents shows that 90% were satisfied or very satisfied with counsellors’ ability to listen and understand their issues. The research was completed by a student of the Masters in Counselling Psychology at Trinity College Dublin, Frank Reddan, under the supervision of lecturer, Barbara Hannigan. The surveys, which were completed between May 2006 and June 2008, were presented at the Psychology Society of Ireland conference in Wexford.

Up to 90% of the clients described the NCS service as “effective” or “very effective”, while 84% said they felt “better” or “a lot better” following counselling. 82% of respondents said they could now “manage their feelings” following the counselling. The respondents had undergone anything from 10-40 sessions of NCS counselling.

Barbara Hannigan said the results showed the service is a “tremendous success”.

“The principal message that we got from people is that they learnt the abuse wasn’t their fault. The research also demonstrates how counselling just isn’t about listening. It has the ability to transform lives.

“The results are particularly good as this group can often have difficulties in maintaining relationships and building trust.”

The research also found that the immediate effects of physical abuse included post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anger and poor self-esteem and poor self-identity, whereas long-term effects are mental health problems, depression, anxiety and or substance abuse. It also found that adults who experience sexual abuse in childhood often have problems with emotional attachment in later life and display poor responses to stress.

* Counselling is available at 60 locations and can be accessed by phoning 1800 235 234 for an appointment.

Fighting abuse - Comments on the service:

* “I learned that it wasn’t my fault.”

* “I was on the brink of suicide before I started counselling. It snapped me back to a wonderful life.”

* “I developed an increased sense of trust.”

* “I felt safe in the room.”

* “Without this I would have ended my life, my counsellor was like an arch angel.”

*”Before this my life was going nowhere.”

*”Not only did they understand abuse and how it affected me, I learned how it affected my life and how not to be so tough on myself.

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