I never saw her again.
And although I no longer remember her name, I’ve never forgotten her.
I’d only been in private practice for a little while, though I’d worked in mental health for a long time. Back then, I did a lot of counseling around trauma, abuse and domestic violence.
I already had a ton of experience; (I thought) I knew what I was doing.
One evening, at the end of a long day, I did an initial consult with a woman who’d finally gathered her nerve to seek help. She was living with severe domestic violence, married to a man who sounded like he could kill her one day if she didn’t get out.
I was immensely proud of her for having the courage to come in, and I understood her situation immediately. After hearing her story, I felt crystal clear on the level of danger she was in. I knew what she needed to do to get out.
So I laid it all out for her.
With the kind of excitement that comes with clarity, I explained how to put a safety plan in place, what to say to him (and what not to), how to handle her employer, how to seek legal help, how to move out, all of it.
She listened politely as I gave her every idea I could think of. Then she thanked me, and left. I felt great — I knew I could help her!
But she never came back.
To this day, I don’t know what happened. It may be that she found a way out, that she went to another counselor, that she was just fine. I certainly hope so.
But I think I made a mistake that night – and it was a big one.