54-year-old Desiree* was referred to the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) by another social service agency in DC where she had been receiving counseling services. Desiree has a long history of abuse beginning early in her life, continuing through adolescence when she was placed with an abusive foster family after her mother died from a drug overdose, and into adulthood with several extremely violent intimate partner relationships. Despite a full year of working with her counselor at her previous agency, Desiree was still suffering from significant post-traumatic symptoms, was having to be hospitalized regularly, and was struggling to maintain her sobriety from alcohol and PCP.
When Desiree came to the DVSC she had little insight into her post-traumatic symptoms. She was referred to our expert counselors at DVSC specifically for help with managing extreme post-traumatic hyper-arousal and dissociation, an area of expertise that she could not receive from the counselor at her previous agency. Over the course of several months, Desiree’s counselor at the DVSC was able to provide education regarding the nature of traumatic hyper-arousal and dissociation, as well as some concrete coping strategies, that helped Desiree have a better understanding of what she was going through and begin to be able to manage her symptoms.
After 11 months of treatment at the DVSC, Desiree has reduced her need for emergency care and hospitalization from once every 6 weeks (before DVSC) to only once in the last 7 months. As a result of the specialized services that Desiree was able to access at the DVSC, she is now more able to fully engage in substance abuse treatment services and work with her AA/NA sponsor. This is enabling Desiree to better maintain her sobriety.
Desiree is also attending a day treatment program for trauma survivors, a setting that she was previously unable to tolerate. Despite her gains, the severity of Desiree’s trauma history and symptoms suggest she will benefit from ongoing therapy for years to come. In Desiree’s words, “It’s nice to know that for once someone isn’t going to try and get rid of me.”
*Name has been changed.