The terms “therapy” and “counseling” can be used in many different ways, but in our work, we use them to mean different and specific things. To distinguish between the two, it may be helpful to refer to the latter as “crisis counseling” or “crisis intervention.”
Crisis intervention is a brief service conducted by trained professionals that focuses on offering stability and support during an episode of crisis or period of specific need. The advocate provides emotional support, assesses the client’s needs, brainstorms and explains options, and assists the client in connecting with helpful resources. Depending on what’s needed at the time, the session may aim to resolve an emotional or mental health crisis, or it may aim to answer specific questions or connect to specific resources. Crisis intervention is intended to be a short-term intervention rather than an ongoing source of support: Most OCRCC clients talk to an advocate anywhere from one to five times. When someone is in an immediate crisis, crisis intervention works to resolve the current episode so that the client is able to focus on their long-term healing process. Often one of the helpful resources that advocates connect clients to is therapy.
Therapy goes beyond immediate stabilization to help clients begin the journey of healing from trauma and other major life stressors. In the process of healing, therapy aims to manage and resolve trauma symptoms in the long term. Therapy is an intervention delivered by licensed mental health professionals who are required to document and justify their treatment strategies. Therapy is a longer-term service designed to move past stabilization and delve into the causes of stressors. The Center’s Bilingual Therapy Program provides up to 16 sessions of trauma-focused therapy to aid survivors in processing their trauma and alleviating their triggers and symptoms.
Sexual assault victim advocates and trauma therapists often work together to meet all of the survivors’ needs so that they can move from surviving to thriving. Advocates – like our expert staff and trained volunteer Companions – help to stabilize clients during episodes of crisis, whether prior to beginning therapy or in between therapy sessions. Our therapists provide a safe space for survivors to dig deeper into painful experiences and resolve emotional and somatic reactions so that they can live a full life.
A couple months ago, Chapel Hill native Ashley Warner, author of The Year After: A Memoir, spoke on WCHL about her book and held a reading at local bookstore Flyleaf Books, which was also a benefit night for the Center. Warner’s book is a beacon for those who are adrift, for those who feel like they are alone. And she is garnering recognition for her compelling testimony. As a winner of the 2014 Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Memoir and a finalist in the 2014 International Book Awards for Best Non-Fiction Narrative, Warner is gaining a powerful voice in the literary world and offers an inside look into the recovery process, the details of which are often unknown to those who have not directly experienced interpersonal violence.
In the book, Warner talks about her assault, which took place over 20 years ago. It was a book that Warner wished she had had at the time of the attack, because it seems more manageable when you know you’re not alone. “It’s really comforting to know how other people have handled it,” she said. She wanted to truly communicate the ups and downs that she experienced, and that’s why it took so long to write. For those who have experienced interpersonal violence or know someone who has, it is all too true that recovery does not happen overnight, nor is there some magic step-by-step plan to make everything ‘better.’
Ora DeKornfeld created Sensei, a short documentary about Brenda Mayfield, a Durham woman who became a martial arts teacher, or sensei, after being raped. We asked Ora to share with us her video and how it came to be. Watch the documentary and read more about Ora and Brenda below. (*Trigger warning)
The first time I spoke with Brenda was on the phone. I had seen her number listed on a flier advertising ‘No Nonsense Self Defense’ at Joe’s Diner in East Durham and decided to give her a call. Her voice was immediately familiar and warm. She was so open, telling me about her childhood in foster care, the violence in her neighborhood and how she uprooted her life in Boston to move to Durham seven years ago. She didn’t know me at all and yet she warmly agreed to help me when I proposed to make a documentary about her. Little did she know this documentary would practically mean living together for the next month.
I followed Brenda’s every move— we went everywhere together, anywhere from the Harris Teeter to buy microwave dinners when her oven broke to trick-or-treating around the neighborhood on Halloween. She quickly got used to the camera and learned to ignore me. Though our hangouts usually ended with Brenda saying, “Okay Ora, get out of my house,” as we spent more and more time together, we became friends.