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Family Violence Support

Children's Counselling Program

The impact on Children

Many children are present during episodes of family violence and some children are abused directly. Witnessing violence can be terrifying, even more so if you are a child and it is directed at you or a family member. Nightmares, anxieties, fears and phobias of many sorts are a normal response.

In a family where one or more members uses physical or verbal violence and threats of violence in an ongoing way there is often a constant underlying sense of fear and tension and a need to be 'on guard' all the time. It is difficult to relax, remain calm and provide children with positive attention in such an environment. Research clearly shows that this has a significant impact on children's relationships, development, wellbeing and ability to learn.  

The immediate impact can be observed in the way a child behaves at school and at home. Some will act out aggressively; some will withdraw into their own world, some will focus all their effort and attention on school work in order to block out what is going on at home. They feel unsafe at home and experience a sense of isolation, loneliness and hopelessness.

Once the child is safe, and no longer living in an atmosphere of fear, it is important for them and their family to know that there are other ways of relating within a family and there is hope for them and their family. It is important to break down the isolation and secrecy of family violence and build up a supportive community around the child and family.

How does WRISC help?

WRISC has three Children's Counsellors who can provide parents with advice and referrals, as well as group, family or individual counselling for children.  

Once a child has had an opportunity to talk about their situation they often feel a great sense of relief. Some of the worries and misunderstandings they have been carrying are shared and addressed. With the support and guidance of a counsellor, a family can work together to support each other. Talking about what has happened and is still happening and developing strategies to address on-going problems can restore a sense of hope and connection; and knowledge that their life can and will get better. In some cases, one or two sessions with a counsellor will be sufficient.

In other circumstances, longer term work may be required or desired. Particularly for longer term work, we use creative therapies such as play, art and drumming. These promote a sense of fun, safety and connection as well as provide an experience of positive relationships and a way of expressing oneself. These methods are effective even if the child does not have the words to describe their feelings or to talk about things that have happened in their lives. It is through play, art and music that children and their carers can find their voice, make sense of what has happened, and develop new ways of being in the world. 


Jayden, Josh and Taylah came with their mum for a "single session" at WRISC.  They had a chance to speak with a counsellor on their own and then, when they all came back together, they came up with a 'family plan' that has really helped make life at home more bearable.  They are no longer fighting amongst themselves as much and they really enjoy their weekly picnic in the park. 

'Hannah' started child-centred play therapy at WRISC. She was able to "play out" and explore some of the things that had happened in her family, as well as freely express some of the strong feelings she was holding and did not understand. Her behavioural issues and relationships with her mother and siblings improved significantly.

'Gemma' participated in some individual art therapy sessions, with similar positive outcomes for her and her family.

'James' joined a Children's Therapy Group coordinated by WRISC's Children's Counselling Program. He enjoyed having a place where he could openly talk about his experiences, among other children who would tell similar stories.

What the children say:

I now know I am not alone. R, aged 10
Drawing is like putting my mind on paper. A, Aged 8
Comment after drawing a safety Mandala: The Colours make me feel safe, K,  aged 10


2018 plans under development.

If you need HELP, please click here to contact us.
If you would like to make a donation to help support the work of WRISC, please click here.

WRISC acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

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(03) 5333 3666
Wrisc Family Violence Support