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.
When discussing a timeline of the anti-sexual violence movement, many people refer to second wave feminism and women’s liberation in the 1960s and ‘70s as the beginning of movement. It is true that many hallmarks of the movement occurred during these years, including the founding of early rape crisis centers. It also led to subsequent federal laws and budget allocations that codified the necessity of rape crisis centers as important community resources.
When people ask me what it’s like volunteering at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, my first response is to say, “It’s so much fun!” People are usually surprised to hear that, of course, but it’s the truth. I am a Community Educator with the OCRCC, and it is a blast.
We CEs go into Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Orange County schools to present violence prevention programs to elementary and middle school students. With very young children, we talk about good touches and bad touches and what to do if somebody makes you feel uncomfortable. With older children, we teach bystander education (teaching them to stand up for what’s right). With these middle school students, we even start to deconstruct rape culture and get at the underlying cultural assumptions that lead to sexual harassment. And over and over, I am amazed at the enthusiasm, maturity, and grace that students of all ages show.
Training to volunteer at the OCRCC is intense. There are days when you come home very depressed and discouraged. Your heart aches as you witness the damage done to a community by sexual violence. But when you start doing programs, it changes. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, by any means, but you realize that the vast majority of kids out there really do want to do what’s right. They don’t want to hurt people. They don’t even want to be complicit in a culture that hurts people. Even when they’re too young to understand the details, they hope for a world without violence, without harassment, without abuse. And you get to be the person who shows them what that world looks like.
Alice Drozdiak supports the Center in multiple capacities, including as a Community Educator. Alice has presented Safe Touch programs to elementary school students and Rape Prevention Education programs to middle school students for over a year.
Find out more about being a Community Educator at ocrcc.org/ce. Fall training starts in September 2012. Apply online by August 31.
We support survivors of all types of sexual violence, such as rape, assault, harassment, stalking, sex trafficking, incest, and child sexual abuse. We are also available to talk to those who feel negatively impacted by a sexual experience. Our services are available to all members of the community regardless of race, socioeconomic class, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religion, disability, age, language, national origin, and immigration status.