Sarah came to the BRIC program following her participation in the SSFS Pathways of Change group for women who have been impacted by domestic violence. She said that she knew from the section in the group program that focusses on the impact on children that she wanted to prioritise learning all she could to support them in healing following the break up of their family.

Sarah and her children endured years of emotional and psychological abuse, and her 10 year old son Dylan also was physically abused by his father. It took several years for Sarah to develop and execute her plan to leave her husband, which she did in December 2019 just before Christmas. Sarah went to the police to make a statement about the abusive behaviour and was interviewed as were her children Dylan and Stephanie. The police were able substantiate the statements and supported Sarah in having her husband arrested and his some belongings removed from her home so that she and her children could remain there while her husband moved to another location. Sarah’s husband was convicted and they have a AVO preventing any contact for 2 years which he has been abiding by so far.

Sarah was concerned about her children, particularly Dylan who she recognises was the one impacted the most by the violence in the family. Sarah said that she was finding it difficult to cope with being a sole parent, and she felt that the children’s behaviour deteriorated once her husband was removed, which she recognised was likely partially due to the situation as well as the children feeling safe enough to fully express themselves in all of their emotions.

Sarah started the BRIC program in March 2020 and persisted with weekly group as well as weekly individual session despite the impact of Covid-19 shutdowns requiring a change to Zoom and phone sessions. Sarah said she appreciated the support during the time when she and the children had to stay home and having someone to speak with about her worries and concerns.

Sarah has enjoyed learning about how trauma impacts on children’s brain development and the behaviour that we may recognise as a result as well has how to support them. Sarah has found that despite logically understanding the information, actually being able to change ingrained behaviour has been more difficult. She has persisted though and completed the group program as well as maintaining regular individual sessions including a family one.

Sarah was first able to make some changes to her own routines and include some regular mindfulness practice for self-care and regulation. Although she was reluctant to try this as her belief was that it wasn’t a productive use of her time, now that Sarah has made it a daily practice she is able to see that it helps her to keep her mind calmer and more regulated so that she can maintain a clearer focus and she finds she ends up being more productive during her day and feels better.

Sarah has begun to put boundaries into place in her difficult relationship with her father, who is her sole remaining family member and who has been emotionally abusive to her throughout her life. She is now enjoying being able to put limits on the time they spend together to ensure that it remains enjoyable, and this is allowing her to keep a relationship with him while looking after herself.

And Sarah has also begun to make real progress in how she relates to her children, starting with Repair following an argument and expressing her positive feelings for them much more frequently, which does not come naturally to Sarah due to her own childhood experiences. Sarah has become more consistent in maintaining a daily routine, which is the building blocks of safety, and has instituted a Reward Jar at home which she is using to assist her in noticing when her children do the right thing, rather than focussing on what is “wrong” all the time. Sarah is still working on finding a “Pause” to help her to stay calm and regulated when the children “Flip their Lids”, and has been able to do this a few times and choose how to respond rather than flipping her own lid as well – she is working on building on this and focussing on her children’s emotions behind the behaviour rather than “fixing” the behaviour.

 Darcy has started to have an increase in “Good Days” at school as well and Sarah is receiving more positive feedback about him there. He is very happy that she has started taking him to guitar lessons which he loves as previously he was taken only to activities that Sarah and her husband thought were good for him. Stephanie is happy that her mother has listened to her request to have more time to relax on the weekends together and to be “boring” rather than always doing things.

Our individual sessions have become fortnightly and Sarah is noticing that she and the children are starting to have more days that are going well than that are not. I will continue to meet with Sarah for a few more sessions to assist her momentum in continuing to build on the changes that she is making before finalising the program. Sarah is recognising that change comes by making many small efforts many times and watching them grow into big changes.


Please note names have been changed to protect confidentiality.