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National Resource Center on Domestic Violence Domestic Violence Evidence Project Practices from the Field

Practice Name: ACCESS: Advancing Career Counseling and Employment Support for Survivors of Domestic Violence

Contact Information

Contact: Dr. Krista Chronister

Address: ACCESS & Counseling Psychology

5251 University of Oregon

Eugene, OR 97403-5251

Phone: 541-346-2415



Brief Description: ACCESS is an economic empowerment program. The program aims to improve longer-term employment and career development achievements that might help domestic violence survivors seek help or escape abusive situations. The program includes 5 weekly sessions. Each session is a small career-counseling group, containing 6-10 survivors and 1-2 facilitators. This intervention bridges social services with career/employment agencies.

Practice Description
Program GoalsThe objective of the program is to foster survivors’ ability to access resources and support themselves and their families longer-term by focusing on the impact of partner violence on survivors’ economic and career development and the healing potential of career counseling services. This is achieved by helping women identify, develop, and use career-related skills, as well as identify and plan their short- and long-term career goals. Program facilitators also address the effects that domestic violence has on survivors’ lives. ACCESS works not only to increase women’s career search self-efficacy but also connects women with community resources and support networks.
Program OriginsThrough her work with domestic violence shelters, Dr. Chronister noticed that many survivors seemed trapped in a “revolving door” of abuse. She spoke with survivors and agency staff to learn about why women returned to the shelter so frequently and quickly. This line of inquiry led her and agency staff to identify a major service gap – the provision of financial, employment, and career counseling that might foster survivors’ ability to access resources and support themselves and their families longer-term.
Program ComponentsACCESS provides domestic violence survivors with knowledge that supports long-term career building. Guided by a curriculum manual, facilitators set up five 2-hour sessions, typically held weekly. Each session includes group and individual activities, including written exercises, individualized career assessments and feedback, work and educational training information, role modeling emphases, and attention to building support networks. The ACCESS program also guides group members through using the online Career Information System (CIS) application for extensive individual assessment and career exploration assistance.
Target PopulationACCESS was created to be inclusive of all adult survivors of domestic violence.  Materials are currently all in English, but Dr. Chronister is in the process of developing materials in Spanish.
Target SettingACCESS has been implemented in domestic violence shelter programs, social service agencies, and post-secondary educational settings.
Practice Evidence
Evaluation MethodsACCESS was rigorously evaluated through a randomized control trial (Chronister & McWhirter, 2006). 73 survivors were randomly assigned to either (1) ACCESS, (2) ACCESS that included a critical consciousness focus, or (3) a wait-list control group. Participants completed surveys at three separate time points: pre-intervention, post-intervention, and a 2-month follow-up. The success of the ACCESS program was assessed using three outcome measures.    
1. My Career Barriers: Identifies the career barriers that are most relevant for women participating in the ACCESS Program.
2. My Career Supports identifies the career supports that are most relevant for women participating in the ACCESS Program.
3. Vocational Skills Self-Efficacy measures women’s confidence in accomplishing a variety of career- and work-related tasks. Meghan Davidson and her colleagues at the University of Nebraska conducted a second evaluation of ACCESS in 2012. Along with the  pre-, post-, and 2-month follow-up evaluation, an 8-month follow-up was added. The critical consciousness group was dropped. This study extended the work to include the mental health outcomes of anxiety and depression. Published findings and evaluation tools can be found at
Evaluation OutcomesChronister and McWhirter’s (2006) RCT showed that, compared to women who received no intervention, those receiving either ACCESS or ACCESS plus critical consciousness had higher self-efficacy related to career searches and demonstrated higher critical awareness immediately post-intervention. Gains persisted through a 2-month follow-up.   These findings were replicated by researchers in Nebraska (Davidson et al., 2012). Survivors demonstrated significant improvements in career-search self-efficacy, perceived career barriers and supports, anxiety, and depression post-intervention. These improvements were maintained at the 8-week follow-up assessment. Anecdotally, group facilitators observed secondary outcomes that were not rigorously measured. Facilitators noted an increase in women’s technology efficacy, in response to their use of computerized Career Information System (CIS), as well as increased hopefulness. Facilitators also observed connections and bonding between survivors as an unexpected outcome of participating in ACCESS.
Organizational Readiness & Future Implementation
Practice CostCurrently, this program has been operated completely by volunteers. Facilitators have volunteered their time, and physical space has been provided by a local domestic violence shelter. The cost for program materials is $460 (includes one facilitator manual; eight participant workbooks; a CD with handouts, measures, and graduate certificates; and a lifetime CIS Program license). An additional facilitator manual is $150 and an additional set of 8 workbooks is $75. All materials can be ordered through the ACCESS website.
Preferred LanguageProgram materials are currently all in English. Materials are in the process of being translated to Spanish.
Training RequirementsGroup facilitators are recommended to have facilitating experience, as well as knowledge about domestic violence and the impact that domestic violence has on the lives of survivors. Current group facilitators have been clinical and counseling doctoral students with backgrounds in counseling and healing.
Planning RequirementsReadiness ConsiderationsIn order to have a successful career counseling group, service providers must be experienced in facilitating group discussions. It is necessary for group facilitators to be knowledgeable about the impact of domestic violence on survivors, especially in connection to advancing survivors’ career development. Secondly, internet and computer access is required in order to use the Career Information System (CIS). 
Caveats/CautionsWhen providing services to this population, it is important to note the unmet need that the ACCESS program is attempting to fill. Women still approach the program knowing very little about domestic violence or its effect on their employment. Women are surviving on a daily basis and are often engaging in practices that do not focus on furthering their career success. These needs should be addressed, either by group facilitators or by domestic violence program staff.
Training ToolsSample pages from the Program Facilitators Curriculum Manual are available: pages from the ACCESS program Workbook are available at: on Career Information System (CIS), an internet-based career and education exploration program used by ACCESS can be accessed at:
Supplemental Materials & Additional ResourcesJournal articles, information about who has purchased ACCESS, and all training and evaluation materials can be found at the ACCESS website.

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