Seeing Help and Coping after Intimate Partner Violence

Young woman sitting in woods journaling as a strategy for coping after intimate partner violence.

Getting Help

Seeking help is the first step in peeling back the layers that contribute to our emotional, mental, physical, behavioral, and spiritual state. In getting the help we need, we restore some control over our lives and emotions, which sometimes feel unmanageable. For this reason, we will start this week with discussing what to look for in a therapist.

Here are just a few suggestions of what to consider when choosing a therapist that is a good fit for you:

  • Does this person have strong interpersonal skills?
  • Do you think you can trust this person?
  • Is this person willing and trying to form an alliance with you?
  • Is this person a good listener?
  • Do you feel heard and understood?
  • Does this person include you in developing a treatment plan that is tailored to your unique needs? Do you think the treatment plan is consistent and acceptable?
  • Does this person express hope and optimism about your chances of improvement?
  • Does this person show empathy?
  • What is this person’s approach to therapy and what interventions/therapy modalities does this person use?
  • What is this person’s specialties?
  • What postgraduate training does this person have?
  • Do you think and feel this person provides a safe place for you?
  • What do the letters after this person’s name mean – is this person a licensed clinical social worker, psychologist, professional counselor, marriage and family therapist, or mental health counselor?
  • Does this person accept your insurance? If not, does he/she have a pay scale and what is it?
  • Can this person accept feedback and admit to mistakes?
  • Does this person see and receive regular peer consultation?
  • Is this person tolerant and respectful of your beliefs and values?

Coping after Intimate Partner Violence

Coping is our ability to effectively deal with something difficult. Whether or not we recognize symptoms of mental health concerns, it is important to know healthy ways of managing our emotional and physical responses to life events. Now we will focus on actively coping.

Actively coping means accepting the impact that our circumstances have on our lives while taking direct action to improve things for ourselves. Remember, recovering from intimate partner violence (IPV) or any distress/life disturbance takes time; it is a process. Please do not assume that you are not making progress if you do not see change overnight.

Please note: the following coping skills apply to anyone – not only IPV survivors.

Talk to Others for Support

This could be trusted and safe friends, family, support groups, and counselors— be sure to choose your support carefully. It is important not to isolate ourselves and to make efforts to spend some time with healthy supports. Also, be sure to clearly ask your support system for what you need.

Relaxation Methods

  • Muscle relaxation exercises (e.g. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) – an exercise that relaxes your mind and body by progressively tensing and relaxing muscle groups throughout your entire body)
  • Relaxation (e.g. calm.com offers techniques for stress reduction)
  • Deep Breathing (regulates breathing to reduce traumatic stress and recharge your body with living, flowing energy – try inhaling slowly and holding for 3-5 seconds, exhaling slowly for 3-5 seconds)
  • Exercising (e.g. walking, running, jogging, biking, gym membership, recruiting an exercise buddy, etc.)
  • Safe place guided imagery (e.g. enables you to take a break from episodes of stress, anxiety, or reacting to past trauma; it involves imagining yourself in a peaceful and safe environment, a place that makes you feel relaxed, happy, and secure)
  • Journaling (e.g. writing removes mental blocks, clarifies/organizes thoughts, reduces stress, and helps us know ourselves better)
  • Prayer (if you have or are willing to explore faith)
  • Spending time in nature (going for a walk at a park, sitting outdoors near a body of water, noticing the beauty of nature and what is around you).

Hobbies

  • Listening to music
  • Reading
  • Knitting
  • Dancing
  • Coloring
  • Baking

Recreational Activities

  • Painting
  • Sculpting
  • Cooking
  • Outdoor activities (e.g. hiking, camping, etc.)
  • Drawing
  • Family pets
  • Travelling

Grounding Exercises

Remind yourself of where you are, what year it is and say these things aloud; look around and say what you see, what colors you see, who do you see, what cars, animals, people you see – this removes you from the memory, fear, and anxiety you are experiencing and brings you to your present place.

For those with unwanted distressing memories, images or thoughts, remember these are memories and not what is currently happening; you are in a safe place right now. It is natural to have traumatic memories, and although overwhelming at the time, they will lessen with time.

Experiencing sudden anxiety or panic include one’s heart pounding, feeling lightheaded or spacey. Anxiety and panic can also be linked to quick breathing. Remember that slowing down your breathing may help. If things are severely unmanageable then call 9-1-1 or have someone call for you.

These are just a few ideas and options for you to consider and choose from. However, there are many more; do not limit yourself to what is listed. If you do not have a hobby or recreational activity, I encourage you to think about what you enjoy. What have you always wanted to try but haven’t been able to? Now is your time…go do it! If you choose to seek help, go over these items with your therapist and explore things to add, what is fitting for you, what is best to use and when.

It has been such a pleasure, honor, and privilege to walk with you all for the last few weeks! Remember you are beautiful inside and out, you are valuable, and the treasure, mystery, and wonder of your heart is worth discovering and awakening because you are truly remarkable! Thank you so much for the time you have spent reading. I hope that this is only the beginning to your healing, health, joy, and a fulfilling and satisfying life!

Resources for Coping Skills: