Lewisham Children & Family Centre

Domestic Abuse Portal

Welcome to our Domestic Abuse Professionals’ Portal! Developed as part of our Home Office-funded project, Prevent-Protect-Repair (PPR), here you will find resources and information on domestic abuse services that are being delivered locally within the London Borough of Lewisham. 

Here, you can also find out more information on the two core domestic abuse programmes that are being delivered – the CODA Programme (Children Overcoming Domestic Abuse – formerly known as the Community Groups Programme) and the Freedom Programme – along with information on how you, as a professional, are able to signpost, refer and support survivors of domestic abuse to access the appropriate support at the right time. 

Prevent Protect

The Timekeeper

Programme Information



Information and Support



Taking Care of Ourselves

Prevent Protect Repair

Information on Domestic Abuse

What is Domestic Abuse?

The Domestic Abuse Act was passed in 2021, which provides a new definition of domestic abuse as follows:

PART 1Definition of “domestic abuse”

1Definition of “domestic abuse”

(1)This section defines “domestic abuse” for the purposes of this Act.

(2)Behaviour of a person (“A”) towards another person (“B”) is “domestic abuse” if—

(a)A and B are each aged 16 or over and are personally connected to each other, and

(b)the behaviour is abusive.

(3)Behaviour is “abusive” if it consists of any of the following—

(a)physical or sexual abuse;

(b)violent or threatening behaviour;

(c)controlling or coercive behaviour;

(d)economic abuse (see subsection (4));

(e)psychological, emotional or other abuse;

and it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.

(4)“Economic abuse” means any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on B’s ability to—

(a)acquire, use or maintain money or other property, or

(b)obtain goods or services.

(5)For the purposes of this Act A’s behaviour may be behaviour “towards” B despite the fact that it consists of conduct directed at another person (for example, B’s child).

(6)References in this Act to being abusive towards another person are to be read in accordance with this section.

(7)For the meaning of “personally connected”, see section 2.

2Definition of “personally connected”

(1)For the purposes of this Act, two people are “personally connected” to each other if any of the following applies—

(a)they are, or have been, married to each other;

(b)they are, or have been, civil partners of each other;

(c)they have agreed to marry one another (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);

(d)they have entered into a civil partnership agreement (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);

(e)they are, or have been, in an intimate personal relationship with each other;

(f)they each have, or there has been a time when they each have had, a parental relationship in relation to the same child (see subsection (2));

(g)they are relatives.

(2)For the purposes of subsection (1)(f) a person has a parental relationship in relation to a child if—

(a)the person is a parent of the child, or

(b)the person has parental responsibility for the child.

(3)In this section—

  • “child” means a person under the age of 18 years;

  • “civil partnership agreement” has the meaning given by section 73 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004;

  • “parental responsibility” has the same meaning as in the Children Act 1989 (see section 3 of that Act);

  • “relative” has the meaning given by section 63(1) of the Family Law Act 1996.

3Children as victims of domestic abuse

(1)This section applies where behaviour of a person (“A”) towards another person (“B”) is domestic abuse.

(2)Any reference in this Act to a victim of domestic abuse includes a reference to a child who—

(a)sees or hears, or experiences the effects of, the abuse, and

(b)is related to A or B.

(3)A child is related to a person for the purposes of subsection (2) if—

(a)the person is a parent of, or has parental responsibility for, the child, or

(b)the child and the person are relatives.

(4)In this section—

  • “child” means a person under the age of 18 years;

  • “parental responsibility” has the same meaning as in the Children Act 1989 (see section 3 of that Act);

  • “relative” has the meaning given by section 63(1) of the Family Law Act 1996.

Dispelling the Myths

Do drugs, mental health issues, stress and/or alcohol make my partner abusive?

No. Abuse is a choice. Although alcohol, drugs and other substance misuse can exacerbate domestic abuse, they do not cause domestic abuse. The perpetrator, and the perpetrator alone, is responsible for the abuse.

If the abuse was that bad, why didn’t they leave?

There are many overlapping reasons why women may stay, including fear. Leaving is difficult and takes time. It is a process. Those experiencing abusive relationships need support and understanding, not judgement.

My partner didn’t hit me, so he/she is not abusive?

Domestic abuse does not always include physical abuse. Rather, it can involve psychological abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, coercive control, stalking and harassment or technological abuse. 

My partner has anger management issues and therefore is not abusive.

Anger is a feeling, abuse is a choice. Abuse is predicated on belief-systems.

He was provoked.

Responsibility always lies with the perpetrator. By appealing to ‘provocation’, we are perpetuating the widespread myth that there are particular abusive behaviours that can be excused and that are brought on by the victim. This is victim-blaming.

Women can be abusive, too.

Domestic abuse can be perpetrated by anyone. However, domestic abuse, and all strands of violence against women and girls, disproportionately affects women and is disproportionately perpetrated by men. It is a gendered crime, the driving force of which is rooted in the societal inequality between women and men. For example, in the year ending March 2019, the ONS found that 92% of defendants in domestic abuse-related prosecutions were men, and 75% of victims were female. The ONS also estimates that 1/3 women aged 16-59 in England and Wales will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime (ONS, 2019).

Domestic abuse only happens to specific women.

Domestic abuse can happen to any women regardless of where they live, their profession, or social background.

Domestic abuse should remain a private issue.

Domestic abuse is a crime. It is not an individual but a social problem. We all need to speak out against it.

Women find abusive men attractive.

This is victim-blaming. A perpetrator can be charming and charismatic, and there are various overlapping reasons as to why women experience domestic abuse.

All couples argue and this doesn’t mean it is domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse and disagreement are qualitatively different. A difference in opinion is common and acceptable, whereas domestic abuse involves ‘any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse… This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse: psychological, physical, sexual, financial, emotional’.

Whether you are experiencing domestic abuse – or any other form of gender-based violence – or you are a professional working with someone experiencing domestic abuse, it is important that consideration is given to safety. A personal safety plan is one way of helping victims and survivors to protect themselves and those around them, whether their decision is to remain in the relationship or whether their decision is to separate from the perpetrator. It is important that this is done collaboratively with the victim and survivor, alongside specialist support, particularly in the event of separation as this can be dangerous and can be when the abuser escalates their behaviour. Specialist support services that can support with safety planning can be found within the directory below, and the locally commissioned Gender-Based Violence Service in Lewisham is Athena.

The following webpages can provide more information on keeping safe:

  1. http://www.refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/support-for-women/keeping-safe/
  2. https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/I-am-planning-to-leave-my-abuser
  3. https://www.womensaid.org.uk/the-survivors-handbook/making-a-safety-plan/


Prevent, Protect, Repair

Lewisham have recently been awarded funding from the What Work’s Centre for Children’s Social Care and the Home Office to run an innovative new programme aimed at building the skills, confidence and capacity of statutory and community services within the Children and Young People Directorate to respond to families affected by domestic abuse.

The aim of the PREVENTPROTECTREPAIR programme is to support the Children and Young People Directorate to:  

  • Identify, record and report domestic abuse 
  • Understand the impacts on children and families 
  • Directly offer evidence-based support 
  • Fully consider the role of fathers for risk and protective factors 

The PREVENTPROTECTREPAIR programme includes the following elements:  

  1. Training for practitioners in domestic abuse interventions, and subsequent co-delivery of interventions to families.  
  2. A Domestic Abuse Advisory Hub of specialist professionals providing advisory ‘surgeries’, including case formulation, advice and safety planning, for practitioners working with families affected by domestic abuse. During the Advisory Hub, you will receive information, advice and support with case planning from specialist professionals, as well as referral on to additional support or programmes as needed.   
  3. Access to specialist external provision including play therapy and healthy relationships support. 

Coming Soon:

To access these services for Social Workers

If you are a member of the wider professional
network and wish to present a case at one of our Surgeries

Click Here

 We are not currently providing these services, but please check-in with us soon.

The Timekeeper

The Timekeeper

This film, the Timekeeper, was developed to raise awareness about the serious impact that domestic abuse can have on children and will be used as a tool to engage and support professionals and community members to understand and respond in an effective way.
Importantly, the film is based on real life experiences of Lewisham residents. It highlights that abuse can be subtle and complex, and encourages discussion and challenges understanding of coercive control and the impact that it can have on children.

 this film occasionally contains strong language and adult themes (which may be unsuitable for children). The content of this film is based on the testimony and experiences of real people and portrays examples of living within a coercive and controlling relationship and may cause distress.

Coercive control is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. Domestic abuse is NOT always physical, it can be verbal, psychological, emotional and financial. Domestic abuse and coercive control is against the law.

If you have been affected by this film or if you are experiencing domestic abuse, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Support is available:

Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247

If you are worried about a child and require more information and advice please call:

NSPCC helpline: 0808 800 5000
If you have a hearing impairment please be aware you can watch the film with subtitles and if you require information or support please access:

SIGNHEALTH – DOMESTIC ABUSE SERVICE: Text or WhatsApp/FaceTime 07970 350366 / da@signhealth.org.ukIf you suffered abuse in childhood you might be finding things especially difficult, support is available: 0808 801 0331 / support@napac.org.uk

For more information on coercive control, please refer to our information sheets on coercive control below:

For more information on coercive control, please download our information sheet:

 Domestic Abuse Services in Lewisham

The Athena service, run by Refuge provides confidential, non-judgmental support to those living in the London Borough of Lewisham who are experiencing gender-based violence. It opened its doors in April 2015 and provides outreach programmes, independent advocacy, group support, refuge accommodation and a specialist service for young women.

It provides the following services, all under one roof:

  • One-to-one confidential, non-judgmental, independent support
  • A specialist independent gender-based violence advocacy (IGVA) team to support clients at risk of serious harm
  • A specialist service for 13-19 year-old girls
  • Group support
  • A peer support scheme to help break isolation; build social networks and provide support clients regain control of their lives
  • Volunteering opportunities
  • Women and girls aged over 13
  • Men aged 16 or older
  • Transgender and identifies as male, female, as another gender, or is questioning gender identity
  • Everyone’s needs are unique and we will work with you to create a support plan that helps keep you and your children safe. For example you may need to:

    • Talk to someone who understands what you are going through
    • Receive support with contacting the police
    • Move away from the area
    • Access a refuge
    • Stay at home, but want to find out how you can keep safe
    • Receive support if you are considering going to court
    • Access legal advice
    • Manage your financial situation
    • Find out about support networks in your community
    • Get specialist support for your children
  • Gender-based violence is violence that is directed against a person on the basis of gender. Gender-based violence is mostly inflicted by men on women and girls. Types of gender-based violence include:

    • Domestic violence (physical, sexual, financial, emotional or psychological abuse)
    • Rape and sexual assault
    • Stalking
    • Prostitution
    • Sexual exploitation
    • Human trafficking and modern slavery (for example, sexual exploitation; forced labour; domestic servitude)
    • Female genital mutilation (FGM)
    • Forced marriage
    • So-called ‘honour’-based violence

    Visit this page for more information on the different forms of gender-based violence.

  • If you’re in Lewisham, call the Athena Service on 0800 112 4052 or email lewishamvawg@refuge.org.uk.
  • If you are a professional and wish to refer into Athena on behalf of a person, please submit the professionals’ referral form by clicking here.

Programme Information

Our two core domestic abuse programmes that currently run are the CODA and Freedom Programmes.

 The following programmes are being delivered in the Summer Term 2022:

Freedom Programme
on Zoom

10/05/22 - 19/07/22
on Zoom
on Zoom
11/05/22 - 20/07/22
on Zoom

CODA Programme
Face to Face

10/05/22 - 19/07/22

Download our overview of each programme provided

To make a referral into our service, please either complete our online referral form or Word referral form by following the buttons below

The Children Overcoming Domestic Abuse (CODA) Programme

CODA is a 12-week therapeutic programme for women & children who have experienced Domestic Abuse. It provides a community based setting for children to share and talk about their experiences, so they understand abuse, reduce their self-blame, can do some planning to keep themselves safe, and learn how to manage their emotions so they can be expressed appropriately.

CODA enables the recovery process and aims to: Validate the children’s experiences Reduce the self-blame that is commonly associated with children experiencing abuse Develop a child-appropriate safety plan Manage appropriate and inappropriate expressions of emotion Enhance the mother-child relationship Enable both the mother and child to heal together

There is a separate programme for the children and the mothers, these run concurrently. It can be delivered as both a group programme and 1 to 1. It is a Canadian group work model adapted for the UK by AVA (Against Violence and Abuse).

Usually the programme is delivered face to face, however this could not continue following the COVID-19 lockdown and a new online version was developed. Regular check-ins were carried out with both the children and mothers whose programmes were put on hold- to provide support and ensure their safety during lockdown. This was extended to include vulnerable families on the waiting list. 

The new digital offer was developed by EYA Lewisham Children and Family Centres alongside AVA – to ensure fidelity to the CODA programme and enable standardisation across the multi-agency delivery model. This included scrutinising each session and adapting every activity to ensure it translated effectively to online delivery, whilst replicating the group experience. Particular care was taken to ensure the potentially triggering nature of the sensitive material covered could be done safely online. An additional online ‘top-up’ training session for facilitators has been created and is now considered a pre-requisite to delivery. The training package upskills practitioners and increases their confidence in two key areas: (1) the use of Zoom as a vehicle to facilitate a safe space for women and children to process their experiences, in a way that continues to maintain their confidentiality and privacy; (2) to effectively facilitate the adapted, online-friendly activities.

Frequently Asked Questions – CODA Programme

What does the CODA Programme seek to achieve?

The CODA programme is a twelve-week therapeutic programme for women and children who have experienced domestic abuse. It seeks to enable the recovery process and aims to:

  • Validate the children’s experiences.
  • Reduce the self-blame that is commonly associated with children experiencing abuse.
  • Develop a child-appropriate safety plan.
  • Manage appropriate and inappropriate expressions of emotion.
  • Enhance the mother-child relationship.
  • Enable both the mother and child to heal together.

How are the groups structured?

The CODA Programme runs for twelve weeks with the women and children’s sessions running concurrently and each week focusing on a specific theme. The children’s sessions are also divided into age-specific groups and both the women’s sessions and the children’s sessions follow the same structure every week in order to provide a sense of continuity. This may include the following:

  • Check-In
  • Discussion
  • Activity
  • Check-Out

Are there any contraindications that would mean that the CODA programme is not  the appropriate service right now?

Due to the CODA Programme being a recovery programme, we do not accept referrals where the perpetrator or alleged perpetrator is still residing in the family home.

We also do not accept referrals where children are on Child Protection Plans. We, as a service, are committed to ensuring that women and children receive the right support at the right time so please do contact Lou Neville-Ball, Family Services Officer, on 07964350616 to discuss alternative support that may be available locally.

Are you currently delivering virtually?

Yes. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have turned our attention to delivering the CODA Programme virtually via Zoom. We have ensured that the necessary precautions have been taken in order for delivery to take place safely online.

Should attendance be mandated as part of a statutory response?

No. Attendance should not be mandated as part of a statutory response. It is the woman and child’s choice to attend – they must do so voluntarily.

Impact of the CODA Programme

The videos below illustrate the impact that our recovery support – in the form of the CODA Programme – has had on children. Using the voices of the children, these powerful videos encapsulate the child’s lived experience and what they have gained as a result of attending the CODA Programme.
(Note: the children’s voices have been disguised to maintain their anonymity.)

Freedom Programme

The Freedom Programme

The Freedom Programme is for women who are or have been experiencing domestic abuse. It examines the influence of attitudes and beliefs on the actions of abusers and the responses of those who have experienced the abuse.

The programme helps women to make sense of and understand what has happened to them, to understand how their children are affected by being exposed to this kind of abuse and how their lives are improved when the abuse is removed. It gives women the space to develop ways of thinking and behaving to protect themselves and their children from harm.

The aims of The Freedom Programme are:

  • To help women understand the beliefs held by abusive men and to recognise which of these beliefs they have shared
  • To illustrate the effects of domestic abuse on children
  • To assist women to recognise potential future abusers
  • To help women gain self-esteem and the confidence to improve the quality of their lives
  • To introduce women to other women who share similar experiences

Frequently Asked Questions – The Freedom Programme

What is the Freedom Programme and what does it seek to achieve?

The Freedom Programme was designed by Pat Craven and is for women who are experiencing or surviving domestic abuse. It usually runs for eleven or twelve weeks (but this may vary depending on your locality) and aims to:
  • Provide women who are experiencing or surviving domestic abuse with a safe, supportive and friendly environment.
  • Allow women to recognise the tactics and behaviours of ‘the dominator’ – that is, the tactics that typify a perpetrator of domestic abuse.
  • Give women the opportunity to build connections with other women.

How are the groups structured?

The Freedom Programme focuses on a different theme each week based on the types of tactics that a perpetrator uses – ‘the dominator’. ‘The dominator’ is then contrasted with a non-perpetrating partner, ‘The Friend’, in order for the women to reflect through structured discussion.

Are there any contraindications that would mean that the Freedom Programme is not the appropriate service right now?

Due to the Freedom Programme being a recovery programme, we do not accept referrals where the perpetrator or alleged perpetrator is still residing in the family home.

We, as a service, are committed to ensuring that women and children receive the right support at the right time so please do contact Lou Neville-Ball, Family Services Officer, on 07964350616 to discuss alternative support that may be available locally.

Are you currently delivering virtually?

Yes. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have turned our attention to delivering the Freedom Programme virtually via Zoom. We have ensured that the necessary precautions have been taken in order for delivery to take place safely online.

Should attendance be mandated as part of a statutory response?

No. Attendance should not be mandated as part of a statutory response. It is the women’s choice to attend – she must do so voluntarily.

Freedom Programme

Impact of the Freedom Programme

The videos below illustrate the impact that our recovery support – in the form of the Freedom Programme – has had on participants. Using actors’ voices, these powerful videos capture the women’s experiences of the Freedom Programme and the impact it has had on them.

‘My son is happier and more confident. He seems to be more happy with himself and he seems to be less quick to be scared’.

Freedom Programme Parent

Information and Support

Directory of Support

24-Hour Domestic Abuse Helpline 
Contact by phone or online to find support. Calls are free.

Refuge Charity 

Lots of information and advice on domestic violence and abuse.

Women’s Aid
Information and support on domestic abuse. A free resource with lots of information

Galop — support for LGBT victims
Supporting LGBT+ people who have experienced abuse or violence

Men’s Advice Line
A free helpline for male victims of domestic abuse. Talk to someone in confidence. 

Rape Crisis
is the umbrella organisation for a network of independent Rape Crisis Centres.

Iranian & Kurdish women’s Rights organisation
Safeguarding and empowering women against “honour” based abuse.

Southall Black Sisters
Highlighting and challenge all forms gender-related violence against women

Karma Nirvana
Honour Based Abuse Helpline, gathering data to inform policies and services, and campaign for change.

African women-led women’s rights organisation working to end violence against women and girls.


Working for good health and wellbeing for Deaf people. Also providing domestic abuse advice.

National organisation working to help keep children safe. Providing advice and support and gathering research. 

A domestic abuse organisation that works with perpetrators and male victims of domestic abuse 

An organisation aiming to  assist high risk victims of stalking in England and Wales, keeping victims and children safe.

Surviving Economic Abuse
Support and advice to help people who are experiencing economic abuse. 

Confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and domestic violence across the UK as well as their friends and family.

National Victim Support
Victim Support is an independent charity dedicated to supporting victims of crime and traumatic incidents.

Forced Marriage Unit
The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is a Development Office (FCDO) and Home Office unit which leads on the government’s forced marriage policy

Hot Peach Pages
Focusing on abuse information and support for every woman and every girl on Earth. Providing information and links to services.

Rights of Women
Providing women with the legal advice and information they need to understand and use the law and their legal rights increasing access to justice.

An umbrella women’s organisation dedicated to addressing violence against black and minoritised women and girls.

A South Asian organisation that works to end violence against women and girls. Also offering secure accommodation.

An organisation working within feminist principles to support women and girls experiencing violence and abuse.

 Supporting migrant women who have experienced gender-based violence and who have no recourse to public funds.

Providing events to make women independent, self-sustaining, and key players in matters that concern them.

Saheli Asian Women’s Project provides advice, information and support services to Asian women and their children fleeing domestic abuse

Courageous Project
We are a diverse group of organisations who work with young women affected by violence and abuse.

W & G Network
A free service run by women, for women in London who have been affected by all forms of violence and abuse.

Supporting the non-abusing parents and carers of children who have been sexually abused. 

Legal Advice
You can search here for a legal aid solicitor. Search for a legal adviser or family mediator.

Support Through Court
A free service across England and Wales, offering support and guidance before, during, and after court.

Find a domestic abuse accredited Resolution Accredited Specialist solicitor in your local area or by profession. 

Law Advice Line
Family law advice lines, one national and one for women in London. Both lines can advise you on domestic violence and abuse

Quaggy Counselling
Providing low-cost, individual counselling to adults in Greenwich and Lewisham. Fees are means tested, starting at £2 per session.

Bright Sky App
Bright Sky is a safe, easy to use app that provides practical support and information on how to respond to domestic abuse. 

The Outside Project
The Outside Project is a Centre and Domestic Abuse Refuge in response to those within the LGBTIQ+ community who feel endangered.

Hollie Guard App
With a shake or tap notifies your chosen contacts, pinpointing your location and sends audio and video to their phones.

For Babies Sake
A programme of support in response to domestic abuse, trauma and what babies need from conception to age two (1001 days).

Breathing Space
Online tool to support victims of domestic abuse. It is a 24 hour helpline and is run by AVA (Against Violence and Abuse).

One in Four
Supporting childhood and current survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence, abuse and trauma and raising awareness. 

NSPCC Childline
NSPCC ChildLine telephone service gives children and young people a voice when no one else may be listening. 

turn2us is a national charity providing practical help to people who are struggling financially. Get support on various topics.

The Havens
Providing specialist centres in London for people who have been raped or sexually assaulted. Providing  a 24 hour helpline.

Sista Space
A community-based non-profit initiative created to bridge the gap in domestic abuse services for African heritage women and girls.

A digital mental health and wellbeing company working to provide a welcoming space for digital mental health care, available to all.


Qwell is a free, safe and anonymous mental wellbeing support for adults across the UK

Everyman Project

Working with male perpetrators of domestic abuse and  a specialist service for people of all genders experiencing domestic abuse.

The Havens
Providing specialist centres in London for people who have been raped or sexually assaulted. Providing  a 24 hour helpline.

Domestic Abuse Intervention Project
Amongst other services helping men learn to change their behaviour and have safer, healthier relationships.

Revenge Porn Helpline
UK service supporting adults (aged 18+) who are experiencing intimate image abuse, also known as, revenge porn

Suzy Lamplugh Trust

Aiming to reduce the risk of violence and aggression through campaigning, education and support.

Forced Marriage Unit

Contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) if you’re trying to stop a forced marriage or you need help leaving a marriage you’ve been forced into.


Safeline is a specialist sexual violence and abuse charity led by the needs of its clients. Providing information and advice.

Jewish Women’s Aid

For Jewish women and children affected by domestic and sexual violence. providing information advice and support.

Muslim Women’s Network
Supporting Muslim women and girls on key issues affecting them and use the information to improve their rights.


A network of churches standing against domestic abuse, shining a light in the darkness, providing a place of safety for survivors.


Advocating for families after the homicide, suicide or unexplained death of their family member or friend, following domestic abuse.


founded to support parents, carers and guardians who are experiencing domestic abuse at the hands of their own children.


Male survivors partnership providing a directory of services. For information and advice across the UK.

1 in 6
Information, advice and support for men who have experienced unwanted sexual experiences.

Survivors Uk

Supports and advocacy for men and non-binary people who have been affected by rape or sexual abuse.

Project 17
Working to end destitution among migrant children andimprove their access to local authority support.

LRMN exists to empower refugees and other migrants and to bring about systemic change to remove the challenges they face.


Taking Care of Ourselves

Domestic abuse is an emotive and poignant topic, and one that we may all have experienced professionally and/or personally. Working in the world of domestic abuse and Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) more generally is meaningful, rewarding and uplifting. However, it can also be stressful, upsetting and demanding. As practitioners and healers, indirect exposure to others’ trauma can bring about secondary trauma, vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue.

Secondary Trauma

Secondary trauma occurs as a result of first-hand exposure to another’s trauma experiences. Symptoms and indicators of secondary trauma mirror those of Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD) and include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Tiredness of fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Feeling strong and persistent feelings of rage, anger, sadness or apathy about a service user’s experiences
  • Inability to concentrate or listen
  • Sleeplessness
  • Changes in memory, recall or perception
  • Feelings of hopelessness, self-doubt or pessimism/cynicism
  • Finding it difficult to implement and maintain professional boundaries with service users
  • Feelings of detachment, apathy or numbing/desensitisation
  • Finding it difficult to maintain a work-life balance
Vicarious Trauma

Coined by Pearlman and Saakvitne (1995), Vicarious trauma, like secondary trauma, occurs as a result of first-hand exposure to others’ trauma. However, what makes vicarious trauma different from secondary trauma is that not only can it bring about symptoms and behaviours that mirror PTSD (as above), but it can generate a shift in worldview. That is, a cognitive shift that can lead to fundamental beliefs about the world being altered.

Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue has been described by Figley (1982) as the ‘cost of caring’. Whether it is the direct exposure or experience of traumatic events, hearing clients talk about the trauma that they have experienced or the full spectrum in between, we (as frontline workers, healers, practitioners and helpers) can be profoundly affected by our work. Often characterised as emotional and physical exhaustion, it can lead to a reduced ability to empathise or feel compassion for others.

Looking after Ourselves: Top Tips

Looking After Ourselves: Top Tips

It is important to remember that it is perfectly normal to experience secondary and vicarious trauma, for the following reasons:

  1. We may have our own experiences of trauma that may be ‘triggered’ by hearing accounts of others’ trauma
  2. We may be aware of our loved ones’ trauma experiences that may be ‘triggered’ by listening to accounts of trauma
  3. Feelings are contagious!
  4. Feelings, memories and stories are stored inside us – in our minds, bodies and hearts
  5. As believers, validators, healers and supporters, we relieve our service users’ distress but inherit some of their pain

Grounding Techniques

Grounding techniques is a practice that can support you to refocus on what is happening in the present moment. Grounding techniques can help relieve you of difficult feelings you may be experiencing and help you journey through distress or stress.

Examples of grounding techniques include:

  1. The 54321 Technique
    Counting backwards from 5, identify things you notice in your surroundings. For example, you may start by listing 5 things you can see, followed by 4 things you can hear, 3 things you feel, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing that you can taste right now.
  2. Think of a funny memory
  3. Listening to your surroundings
    Can you hear traffic? Can you hear nature (the birds tweeting, for example)? What languages are being spoken around you?
  4. Think of a happy memory and recall it in fine detail
  5. Remind yourself that you are safe by reading a safety statement
  6. Feel your body
    Focus your attention on how your body feels in its entirety. Can you notice the sole of your feet touching the floor? Can you hear yourself breathing? Is it loud or quiet, heavy or soft? How does the texture of your shirt feel against your arms? Can you notice your hair touching your ears?
  7. Breathing exercises
  8. Mindfulness

Physical Techniques

  1. Stretching
  2. Engage in some physical exercise
  3. Jump up and down!
  4. Place your hands in running water
  5. Take a short walk (outside if you can)

Practical Suggestions within the Workplace

In addition to the above, below is a list of practical measures that can be taken within the workplace:  

  • Seek support from your line manager, mental health first aider or your wider network of colleagues
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Employ grounding techniques
  • Maintain boundaries by ensuring a healthy work-life balance
  • Ensure relief from screen-time (particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and ‘video call fatigue’ – for more information on ‘video call fatigue’, click here - https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200421-why-zoom-video-chats-are-so-exhausting )
  • Explore the possibility of clinical supervision with management and senior management
  • Make time for self-reflection
  • Check-in with colleagues


You can find a list of resources below that can help you on your self-care journey.


  1. https://proqol.org/
  2. https://quaggydevelopmenttrust.org/wellbeing-hub/
  3. https://www.breathingspace-ava.org.uk/self-care
  4. https://schools.au.reachout.com/articles/developing-a-self-care-plan
  5. https://positivepsychology.com/self-care-worksheets/
  6. https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/coronavirus-and-work/dealing-with-burnout-when-working-from-home/
  7. https://www.nhs.uk/every-mind-matters/mental-health-issues/stress/
  8. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/
  9. https://www.nhs.uk/every-mind-matters/coronavirus/mental-wellbeing-while-staying-at-home/
  10. https://www.communitycare.co.uk/2020/04/09/support-emotional-resilience-wellbeing-pandemic/
  11. https://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/resources/fact-sheet/taking_care_of_yourself.pdf
  12. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/guides-tools-and-activities/tips-to-reduce-stress/
  13. https://learning.elucidat.com/course/5bd886eb1ce37-5c0a8c241f2a3
  14. https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/4149/trauma-2020.pdf

Podcasts, Videos and Apps

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfCLTQhW9GQ
  2. https://victimresearch.org/podcast/tell-us-about-it-episode-5-katherine-manners-of-vicarious-trauma-toolkit/
  3. https://therapyreimagined.com/modern-therapist-podcast/managing-vicarious-trauma/
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsaorjIo1Yc
  5. https://nogginnotespod.podbean.com/e/podcast-episode-surviving-the-storm-vicarious-trauma/
  6. https://coronertalk.com/secondary-traumatic-stress-getting-through-what-you-cant-get-over
  7. https://www.calm.com/
  8. https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app
  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFQI1UxXdlk&t=1s
  10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTiowIy-_BU
  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j94-q1tBT0g
  12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImgFk3r4P7A
  13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZToicYcHIOU
  14. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xl_B45DpMLU
  15. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOfshreyu4w

Library of Resources

Translate with Google Translate
Skip to content