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.
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.
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.
DOORS provides a counselling, support and
information service staffed by paid professionals
and trained volunteers
OPEN DOORS provides value-based preventive
sexuality, relationships and resilience education
programs for schools and the wider community
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.
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:
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
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
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.
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
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
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).
holistic view to counselling aims to address both the
presenting problem and the underlying problem of the
client through long term counselling and support.
counselling service reflects the community base of the
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
by volunteers from, or aligned with, the local
counselling service reflects the ethos of both a
Christian approach and a Counselling practice
of people from all walks of life – irrespective of
race, socio-economic level and belief system
to client self-determination and quality of life
maximizing self-understanding, intrinsic value and
to providing a safe, independent and unpressured
environment in which free choice may be determined
counselling and on-going counselling during and
Relationship Counselling (in the context of the
Loss (including Post-Abortion) Counselling
Gynaecological and General Practitioners (Medicare
Benefits and Financial Counselling
Psychotherapy (in-house and external)
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
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
Voluntary medical advisers, legal advisors and social
workers are on call.
OPEN DOORS Educational Services provides a consultancy
and resource service for students, teachers, parents and
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:
promotion of values that support the health and well
being of children and adolescents
provision of information and resources designed to
empower and enhance quality of life
preventative approach to social problems such as
teenage pregnancy, depression, suicide and drug
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
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
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.
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,
An ecumenical Christian organisation, OPEN DOORS is
committed to supporting the family through a service
intrinsic value and worth of the individual
appreciation and wonder for life and human sexuality
of children and adolescents to feel safe at all
sensitivity to developmental stages of children and
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.
based sexuality programs and presentations for
about adolescent relationships, health and sexuality
for secondary schools
for primary and secondary schools teaching
designed to empower parents with knowledge and
skills to help their teenagers through adolescence
and evaluation of current trends in sexuality
Development of multi-media resources for primary and
Consultancy service for schools and parents.
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
psychotherapists and educators working for, or
affiliated with, OPEN DOORS
Counselling and Educational Services Inc. and is
regularly reviewed and updated.