Abused women overcome incredible obstacles, from abuse stemming back to childhood to crippling poverty: and on their side they have counsellors such as Candace Holt of the Nelson Community Services Centre.
Holt retires in early April after 18 years in Nelson, moving here from Prince Rupert, where she also worked in a Stopping the Violence program, a province-wide service started in 1991. In two decades, she has worked with more than 1,900 women, some of whom have experienced violence since they were in the womb.
Holt uses a number of healing techniques when working with childhood, sexual and emotional abuse, but her most trusted tool is Eye Movement and Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). It works with alternate right/left brain stimulation to create positive cognition and change physical and emotional responses. EMDR is a method of therapy often used to access, neutralize and resolve the upsetting memories at the root of current emotional or other disturbances.
While the issues haven’t changed, the services and awareness about violence have, says Holt. There are annual days and weeks of action against violence against women, and a community team — including the NCSC’s Aimee Beaulieu Transition House, outreach workers, Nelson Women’s Centre, Specialized Victim Services, Mental Health, social workers, police and RCMP — that helps women in abusive situations.
“Each culture has its own attitude about leaving an abusive situation, and women in almost all such circumstances suffer a large financial loss when they leave. But I’ve worked with a number of people who suffered horrendous abuse and now they’re doing very well. They are very strong: how could you live with and survive years of abuse without being strong?” says Holt. “It is most satisfying to see people heal and move toward fulfilling their potential.”
Daily work with issues of abuse, however, creates a secondary trauma, a toll on the counsellor herself.
“It’s important that trauma counsellors get sufficient supervision and make time in their lives for self-care,” Holt says.
“I have appreciated that NCSC offers a good vacation plan to employees, and has provided me with clinical supervision and consultation through the years, and the opportunity to attend many professional development workshops. As well, the team approach within the staff, and regular meetings with counsellors from around the region have been a source of great support and collegiality.”
Writing music and playing classical and folk guitar, bouzouki and mandolin, along with kayaking, leading Dances of Universal Peace, and cross country skiing, have helped keep Holt’s life in balance.
Along with greater involvement in environmental and social justice issues, she looks forward to more music in her retirement.