Related Tools


Last edited: September 14, 2012

This content is available in


Prior to all sessions, counselors should become familiar with the history of the woman seeking support (e.g. circumstances, needs, resources, strengths) and other information learned during her time in the shelter. It may also be helpful to consult with other service providers or shelter staff working with the woman regarding her progress and any emerging concerns or special assistance required.

Sufficient time should be allowed for counseling sessions (e.g. a minimum of one hour for initial session) to ensure that the woman is able to freely discuss concerns, and that there is time to assess any progress made, discuss solutions and plan the next steps.

Staff should try to establish rapport with each woman, by:

  • Extending a friendly and accepting greeting
  • Recognizing and responding to the woman’s feelings
  • Conveying care and concern through words, tone of voice, facial expressions and body language
  • Seeking to build trust and comfort
  • Facilitating the flow of conversation

During each session, staff should support the woman to clarify the problem by seeking to understand and explore the woman’s:

  • Priority concerns and her feelings about those concerns
  • Previous help-seeking efforts
  • Support system
  • Goals in addressing the problem

Counselors should also assist the woman to explore alternatives, identify and mobilize the types of assistance and resources she needs to achieve her goals. Through discussion of available options, they can help ascertain the woman’s interest in accessing recommended services.

Counseling sessions may contribute to the case planning process, which supports women to access identified services and other resources needed to achieve her goals. Some counseling processes may develop a plan with activities and supports to be provided by shelter staff (e.g. scheduling an appointment with a legal advisor) as well as the survivor (e.g. to review the information provided regarding legal consultation, identify questions, attend the consultation and follow up on plans or activities developed during the consultation). Such plans are specific to each woman and vary depending on the woman’s condition (e.g. level of distress and related effects) circumstances and aims (International Organization for Migration, 2007).