SGS Report: Chance Crisis Centre – A Chance to Interview Your Psychologist
Grant recipient: Chance Crisis Centre, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Project: Assessing the quality of services for victims of gender-based violence
A complex and sometimes contradictory situation faces women’s crisis centres and the people they serve in Kyrgyzstan today. On the one hand, advances have been made in the legal sphere, not just recognising the issue of domestic violence but a range of linked gender issues – for example, the dangers to young women from forced or early marriages. A network of crisis centres and partner organisations has been in place for more than 10 years, offering legal, social and psychological support to victims of violence. Some centres are able to offer short-term shelter accommodation; other newer projects have began to address those who inflict violence – mainly men. The donors have made major efforts to launch a system of pro bono support offered by lawyers for cases that go to court.
And yet, the numbers of women applying to these organisations for help is still high and many crisis centres are working on a shoe-string, unable to maintain a shelter or even 24-hour helpline services. Other groups of victims have come a little bit more into the open – for example, those organisations that serve the LGBT community, who suffer massive discrimination and the threat of violence if they truly “come out”.
The project organised by Chance Crisis Centre and funded by The BEARR Trust in Bishkek aimed to increase the capacity of psychologists and social workers by exploring issues around the quality of service. It complements another area in which some progress can be seen – the development of standards for government funded social services in Kyrgyzstan. However, it takes a different tack, not setting administrative or management targets, but stimulating discussion around more political issues – that is, using a human rights, anti-discrimination, or feminist approach – and working in a more informal way, sharing experience and emphasising collective methods of organising advice and mutual support.
Adapting a model of women’s services assessment developed by Oxfam, the project focused on the interactions between psychologists and social workers with victims of violence, rather than any other aspect of the work of crisis centres. After an initial consultative meeting, local activists and experts worked together to identify seven main indicators for the quality of services. These were defined as follows: 1) standardised procedures, 2) immediate response, 3) management of risks, 4) relations based on solidarity, 5) professional ethics, 6) regular monitoring of psychological services and the results of work with clients, 7) provision of information, 8) raising clients’ self-esteem, 9) enabling clients to make a conscious decision about what to do next. Detailed explanations and accompanying notes were developed for each of these topics.
In the next stage, a team of seven experts – some working psychologists, others from NGOs and the higher education community – planned an organisation self-assessment methodology whereby service providers could test themselves against the indicators. Three organisations took part in piloting the methodology – two well-established women’s crisis centres and one NGO serving LGBT people including via a short-term shelter. Short (2-day) assessment visits were arranged to each organisation, meeting management, staff, clients and external partners, and at the end of the second day a self-assessment was carried out and discussed by the staff team.
As we anticipated, psychological services were shown to be critically important for victims of violence, and many clients testified to the valuable support received. However, the family and wider environment remain very challenging for many of them. Where an organisation is able to offer group based support as well as individual sessions, this can be useful, and some clients later become volunteers, advocates or even staff members. Measuring longer-term results with clients is really difficult and our project opened up a number of questions that it is difficult to answer.
In November, we held a public forum to present the project results. Three outcomes can be mentioned: 1) providing support for the three organisations as they work on recommendations made in the self-assessment; 2) plans to develop a self-assessment handbook for psychological services with accompanying resources that other crisis centres could use; 3) an idea to run a regional workshop in 2020 to share the experience more widely.
Chance Crisis Centre.
 See the article “Understanding quality in services supporting women survivors of gender based violence” by Michaela Raab and Jasmin Rocha in Development in Practice,Volume 23 No.7 September 2013
 The self-help methodology was adapted from INTRAC (international NGO Training and Research Centre, with results assessed on a 5-point scale and presented in an easy to understand spidergram, www.intrac.org ) \lsdunh