Open Doors Counselling and Education Services

 

 

Mission, Rationale, Services

 

 

 

History

 

 

OPEN DOORS was founded in November 1984 in Ringwood, Victoria, by local residents, Barry and Jenny Kearney, who were concerned about the lack of support in the area for those concerned with pregnancy and related issues.

The development of preventive health education programs for schools followed as a natural corollary to the work of the counselling arm.

In 1999 the work of the Centre was acknowledged when the immediate past Executive Director, Mrs Jenny Kearney was awarded the medal of the Order of Australia for service to youth and to lifestyle education through OPEN DOORS Counselling and Educational Services.
 

Structure

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OPEN DOORS is an ecumenical Christian, fully independent, community based, registered charitable organization. OPEN DOORS directs its own fundraising activities to the ecumenical Christian community and individual donors.

OPEN DOORS is fully incorporated and has a duly elected Committee of Management.

 

Philosophy

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As a Christian-based agency, staff members and volunteers are drawn from different denominations. Staff and volunteers share a common belief that the welfare of both mother and child are inextricably linked from conception, and that the disruption of the maternal response by abortion is currently not being addressed by the community at large. Consequently, staff and volunteers share a concern about the effect of abortion on women, their partners and society.
 

Mission

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  • OPEN DOORS accepts and caters for people from all walks of life, irrespective of race, socio-economic level and belief system

  • OPEN DOORS works with people to help them make their own well-informed decisions about pregnancy and related issues

  • OPEN DOORS works with people to help them develop their potential within their lives and relationships

  • OPEN DOORS works in the community to provide life-skills, values and information that will enable the achievement of optimal family and marital relationships

  • OPEN DOORS works in the community to encourage a sense of belonging, volunteering and a high standard of practice in human service delivery
     

Agency Purpose

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  1. OPEN DOORS provides a counselling, support and information service staffed by paid professionals and trained volunteers

  1. OPEN DOORS provides value-based preventive sexuality, relationships and resilience education programs for schools and the wider community

Aims and Objectives

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  • To provide a comprehensive counselling service with trained counsellors

  • To provide a low cost, accessible service to individuals in the community experiencing confusion, anxiety or mixed emotions about personal issues

  • To support and strengthen the family and community

  • To promote and strengthen volunteerism and community involvement

  • To provide comprehensive information and encourage well-informed decision-making

  • To co-operate with other human service providers to maximize service provision and use

  • To provide value-based educational programs and materials in relation to childhood and adolescent relationships, health and sexuality resources for primary and secondary schools

  • To maintain a secure financial base for the provision of staff salaries, facilities and operating costs.

Open Doors Counselling

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1. Counselling Rationale

OPEN DOORS’ counselling approach combines crisis theory, Rogerian person centered therapy (which is a non directive approach), grief theory and practical information as required.

1.1 Non-Directive
Counselling is based on an unconditional positive regard for our clients. This allows our clients to look inwardly to understand their own needs and feelings, to recognise their own intrinsic value and worth as individuals, to form their own values in that context and make their own informed decision.

1.2 The Pregnancy Counsellor
The primary role of the pregnancy counsellor is to create a warm and supportive relationship with the client over the long term. Thus, not only is the client empowered to make her own optimal decision regarding the unplanned pregnancy, but the counselling relationship continues beyond the implementation of her decision for as long as the client may need it.

A safe and comfortable atmosphere allows the client to explore her situation from all perspectives – physical, emotional, psychological and also spiritual. The spiritual aspects are only brought into the discussion if appropriate to and raised by the client.

There is no place in counselling service provision at OPEN DOORS for spiritual or religious aspects to be introduced by the counsellor/therapist. Doing this may result in the client feeling unaccepted, judged and intruded upon and may be interpreted as evangelization. Rather, the staff at OPEN DOORS honour Christianity by reflecting Christ in their approach.

1.3 Pre-Abortion Counselling
The aims of pre abortion counselling:

  • to provide information about abortion and to provide information and access to alternatives

  • to provide an atmosphere in which a woman can work through the decision making process and clarify her feelings about abortion, including any ambivalence. It is well recognised that some women are particularly vulnerable to pressure from family members or partners

  • to provide information about the abortion procedure, its possible after effects - physical, emotional and psychological

  • to provide relationship counselling in the context of the pregnancy.

1.4 Non-Referral Policy
In the interests of the client, OPEN DOORS provides counselling independent of the abortion referral system. An abortion referral needs to be a subsequent and separate step to abortion counselling as there is a conflict of interests where counselling is conducted by the abortion provider.

The client’s needs are best met by de-escalating their anxiety and fears, providing full information, exploring the pressures they face and assisting them to look within themselves to make a decision that is right for them. A number of contacts may be required in order for the client to make her decision.

The non referral for abortion policy is an important part of crisis pregnancy counselling at OPEN DOORS. Clients are informed of this at the time of their initial contact if abortion is one of the options they are considering.

Clinical experience with stillbirth and Post traumatic Stress Disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 1987) has shown that the place where the trauma occurred and the personnel involved are subsequently avoided by the patient, despite their need for further or follow up help.

 

Discussions with abortion clinic staff and our own clients confirm that this phenomenon also occurs in the case of abortion. In order to provide effective, long term support and counselling for the woman who chooses abortion, a non referral policy is therefore an essential component of pre abortion counselling.

Furthermore, an abortion referral from a counsellor can be perceived by the client as the counsellor's assessment of her suitability for abortion. This is out of place in non directive, client centered counselling, and can cause premature foreclosure of the client's own decision making process.

This is particularly the case when dealing with adolescents because of their vulnerability to immediate situational cues, i.e.: the availability of on the spot referral. Recent research suggests there must be a delay between the counselling session and the young client's decision. This delay will "mitigate the demand laden situation in which the adolescent finds she is pregnant while at a clinic where there is the potential to have an abortion" (Worthington, 1989).

OPEN DOORS’ independence is assured, as it has no vested interest in the performance of abortions and has no involvement in the politics of the abortion debate.

 

1.5 Pregnancy Loss Counselling
Clinical experience and research show that miscarriage and abortion can be a lonely and emotional experience. It can be a source of intense grief for the women and those close to her. Maternal loss that is not recognised can lead to unresolved grief, depression and the subsequent disruption of relationships with family and significant others.

Our non referral policy for abortion places us in a unique position to offer women experiencing early pregnancy loss short-term grief counselling and professional long-term grief therapy.

1.6 Relationship/Contraception Counselling
Relationship counselling enables the client to examine and clarify her/his own value system, the relationship with her/his partner, and any underlying issues in her/his life that may be producing symptoms such as anxiety, inappropriate sexual activity, fear of pregnancy etc. Self esteem, assertiveness, decision making and communication skills are integral.

On request, full information is given about all methods of contraception, including known risks, failure rates and consequences. Information about Sexually Transmitted Infections is also provided. Relationship counselling assists the client/s to examine and clarify their feelings about pregnancy in case of contraceptive failure.

OPEN DOORS does not provide a medical service. Clients requesting contraceptive drugs or devices are advised that it is in the interests of their health to have a full case history taken and a thorough medical examination from a doctor before making their decision.

The needs of adolescents are not being met by current trends to `normalize´ adolescent sexual activity through the promotion of a contraceptive/“safe sex” philosophy. Simplistic approaches, that assume access to contraception is a solution, only serve to undermine the value position of non sexually active teenagers and encourage them to take risks, both physical (failure of contraception, unplanned pregnancy, abortion, STDs) and emotional. These approaches only mask the needs of those teenagers who are using their sexuality `defensively´ as a response to deeper seated problems (e.g.: family dysfunction, sexual abuse, and recent loss).

 

OPEN DOORS’ holistic view to counselling aims to address both the presenting problem and the underlying problem of the client through long term counselling and support.

 

2. Counselling Services

 

2.1 The counselling service reflects the community base of the organization

  • accessible to local residents and the Australia wide community through the 1800 telephone service, web site and email facility

  • responsive to the needs of the community

  • staffed by volunteers from, or aligned with, the local community.

2.2 The counselling service reflects the ethos of both a Christian approach and a Counselling practice

  • accepting of people from all walks of life – irrespective of race, socio-economic level and belief system

  • confidential

  • caring and compassionate

  • committed to client self-determination and quality of life

  • maximizing self-understanding, intrinsic value and worth

  • committed to providing a safe, independent and unpressured environment in which free choice may be determined

2.3 Emotional Support

  • Crisis counselling and on-going counselling during and after pregnancy

  • Pre-Abortion Counselling

  • Relationship Counselling (in the context of the pregnancy issue)

  • Pregnancy Loss (including Post-Abortion) Counselling

  • Pregnancy Loss Psychotherapy

2.4 Referrals

  • Gynaecological and General Practitioners (Medicare referrals arranged)

  • Hospitals

  • Legal advice

  • Income Benefits and Financial Counselling

  • Fostercare services

  • Adoption services

  • STI Specialists

  • Psychotherapy (in-house and external)

  • Psychiatric services

2.5 Practical Support

  • Accommodation Emergency and Long Term

  • Baby and Maternity clothes

  • Nursery Furniture

2.6 Counselling Staff

The Director of Counselling is responsible for the selection, training and supervision of a team of twenty counsellors.

Volunteer counsellors are selected for training from a variety of disciplines. They undertake the OPEN DOORS Counsellor Training Program conducted by the D.O.C. Ongoing training via monthly in-service, and supervision is maintained. Annual counsellor reviews are conducted.

Paid staff members have appropriate qualifications in Counselling and Psychology and have ongoing professional development.


2.7 Psychotherapists

On-staff consulting psychotherapists assist with counsellor supervision, and provide professional long term psychotherapy services for those clients contacting for issues outside those of pregnancy and pregnancy loss. Appropriate referrals are made for those clients whose needs are assessed as being better met elsewhere.

Psychotherapists are trained through appropriate tertiary courses.

 

2.8 Other professional liasion
Voluntary medical advisers, legal advisors and social workers are on call.

 

Open Doors Education

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Introduction

OPEN DOORS Educational Services provides a consultancy and resource service for students, teachers, parents and youth workers.

The preventive education programs of OPEN DOORS have emerged as a natural corollary to the holistic approach of the counselling arm. The clinical experience of the counselling arm, and analysis of the research literature worldwide, provides a basis for the development of pro active programs and methodologies to promote the health and well being of young people.

The educational service therefore reflects:

  • the promotion of values that support the health and well being of children and adolescents

  • the provision of information and resources designed to empower and enhance quality of life

  • a preventative approach to social problems such as teenage pregnancy, depression, suicide and drug abuse.

1. Education Rationale

Although sexuality education has been in schools for more than three decades, young people still face a number of problems in the area of sexuality and relationships. Rates of teenage pregnancy, abortion and sexually transmitted infections are cause for concern. Because sexuality education came about more in response to social policy rather than by public demand, the scope of information has widened. However clinical experience demonstrates that an increase in knowledge delivered to young people is not necessarily sufficient to equip and prepare them for future decision-making and relationship choices.

The principal responsibility in sexuality education is to ensure that young people are given correct information and guidance and that means more than giving physical facts. It means helping young people to understand that there are deeper issues about the significance of human sexuality.

Subjective morality tells young people that there is no such thing as normative behavior or objective standards. Rather, it focuses on issues of whether or not it feels all right or whether or not the individual is prepared to cope with the consequences of behavior. This is incorrectly labelled as a `neutral´ approach.

The unfortunate effect of the so called `neutral´ approach is that it causes confusion in the young person by the transmission of unstated or hidden values, which he/she is not invited to identify or examine.

The development of an individual's own value system is a lifelong process. During the vulnerable years of childhood and adolescence, health educators have the primary responsibility to openly promote the values that will best protect a child's health and total well being. A `neutral´ approach does not fulfil this responsibility.

OPEN DOORS’ value based approach openly promotes values that support the health and well being of children. Combined with correct, age-appropriate information, and life-skills to aid decision making, this approach gives them the optimal encouragement to make healthy decisions during their formative years.

The long term process of developing their own value system is also helped by the clear presentation of values that they can examine and accept or reject according to their perceived worth. As they mature, it is in the context of their own developing value system that they will decide and act.

 

2. Education Aims

History has shown the family to be the most effective unit for the nurture and protection of the young, the development of the individual and thus the general well being of society. The commitment of marriage is the optimal relationship on which to base family life (Gallagher, M. The Case For Marriage, Broadway Books, 2001).

An ecumenical Christian organisation, OPEN DOORS is committed to supporting the family through a service that upholds:

  • the intrinsic value and worth of the individual

  • an appreciation and wonder for life and human sexuality

  • the right of children and adolescents to feel safe at all times

  • sensitivity to developmental stages of children and adolescents

  • the provision of life skills, values and information that will enable the achievement of optimal family and marital relationships.

OPEN DOORS is committed to serving both secular and non secular communities. This has required the reconciliation of the traditional Judeo Christian ethic with the contemporary medical, psychological, sociological and clinical research and analysis upon which all our programs are based. The fact that our programs are presented from a verifiable value position but not a religious perspective makes them unique educational resources.

 

3. Education Services

  • Family based sexuality programs and presentations for primary schools

  • Programs about adolescent relationships, health and sexuality for secondary schools

  • Programs for primary and secondary schools teaching resilience

  • Programs designed to empower parents with knowledge and skills to help their teenagers through adolescence

  • Research and evaluation of current trends in sexuality education

  • Development of multi-media resources for primary and secondary schools

  • Consultancy service for schools and parents.

4. Web Site

The OPEN DOORS website is designed to cater for both Counselling and Education visitors. The website provide a point of contact for individuals seeking personal assistance, and provides information and perspectives about the core issues with which OPEN DOORS is involved.

The material on the web site is authored by qualified psychologists,
psychotherapists and educators working for, or affiliated with, OPEN DOORS
Counselling and Educational Services Inc. and is regularly reviewed and updated.
 

OPEN DOORS
Counselling and Educational Services

5 Greenwood Ave Ringwood 3134
Victoria Australia

Correspondence to:
P.O. Box 610 Ringwood 3134 Victoria
Ph 03 9870 7044
Email: info@opendoors.com.au

 

 

Updated May 2005

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info@opendoors.com.au

 

 

Copyright ©2005 Open Doors Counselling And Educational Services Inc. All Rights Reserved.