Sexual Trauma & Abuse Restorative Therapies

Advice & Support Line
01962 868 688

START offers a confidential specialist counselling and support service for anyone who has experienced unwanted sexual abuse and / or sexual assault and has suffered sexual trauma. The service is specifically for people who live in Central, North and West Hampshire although the service can offer specialist private counselling outside this geographic area. The service is inclusive offering its trauma counselling regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity or cultural and religious background. The type and duration of any counselling and / or support varies and is agreed upon at the outset of the service delivery.

START was originally set up in 1995 to provide a free, confidential helpline and one-to-one counselling for women and men over the age of 18 who have experienced sexual abuse, sexual violence or rape, at any time in their lives. It now also provides help for under-18s as well. Our main offices are in Winchester in central Hampshire, but we geographically cover the Central, North and West Hampshire areas with access to counselling hubs in Andover at The Bridge and in Basingstoke.

We are funded through charitable giving, donations and government funding from Hampshire County Council, NHS England and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner Hampshire (OPCC).

Please contact us on 01962 807 037 to find out more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are you?

START has been around for over 20 years originally providing services to people living in the Mid-Hampshire area. We offer specialist counselling services for both adults and under-18s who have suffered and survived some degree of sexual abuse or sexual assault. We also offer an information and advice line for anyone who wants signposting on other services or advice as to where or what to do if they encounter sexual abuse or have any questions about sexual abuse or sexual assault. We also have a text and e-mail service for those who wish to contact us and don’t like using the phone. We are part of Communities First Wessex (known as Community First) who are a registered charity.

What staff do you have?

START has a paid part-time manager, and a paid part-time administrator who support our team of volunteer counsellors. The counsellors offer their services for free for anyone residing or living in the Central, North and West Hampshire areas but also will see people privately for anyone living outside our area who choose to use our services rather than their local one. We are supported by Community First staff for all our support services.

What area do you cover?

The areas highlighted in blue below (Test Valley, City of Winchester, Basingstoke & Dean, Hart and Rushmoor) please check our PDF lists; Central & Western Hants and North Hants; for more details of which postcodes we cover.

Where are you based and when are you there?

Our centre is on City Road, Winchester, almost opposite the Co-Op store. The centre currently has 3 counselling rooms which are all tranquil, relaxing and secure. We offer counselling between 9am and 9pm to suit the people we are seeing and have an administrator available each morning to take calls. You can call to make an enquiry, to ask to see a counsellor and you will be offered an assessment usually within 2 weeks of contact.

Our building is up a total of 12 steps with a single railing of the left hand side of the first 10. Please make sure to press the ‘START’ door bell on the left hand side of the main door when you visit.

Should our building prove inaccessible to you we can also provide counselling sessions round the corner at St Peters Church off of Jewry Street.

(Note: currently due to Covid-19 we are mainly conducting counselling via Skype, Zoom or other social media platforms or by telephone for now.)

Where can I park?

The nearest car parks are outside Winchester Train Station on Gladstone Street, by the Library on Jewry Street  and a multi-story car park on Tower Street. We are approximately 5 minute walk away from either, and there are also a number of other car parks nearby as well.

Alternatively if you are from farther afield you may wish to use either of the Winchester Park and Rides located on the edge of the city.

What services do you offer?

While we mainly provide face-to-face counselling for all genders and ages we also offer a range of other services including pre-counselling groups, a student specific service, a helpline which provides advice information and acts as a signposting service to other linked services such as Victim Care, Frankie workers, ISVAS, Survivors UK, the Survivors Trust and our own STEPS programme of peer support.

Do you offer support to those who have not experienced direct sexual abuse or sexual assault?

Yes, we offer a service to anyone who has had some experience of sexual abuse and sexual assault, direct or indirect. We may offer less sessions of counselling but this is assessed on a individual basis at the assessment stage.

How do I access counselling and what's the process?

You can refer yourself to us for counselling and call us, text us or e-mail us and we will contact you. We then arrange for you to come in and have what’s called an assessment. This lasts for around 50 minutes with one of our team of assessment counsellors and they will see you to discuss what you want from counselling and how we might help you. We usually arrange an assessment within 2 weeks of your contact. You then go onto a waiting list to see a specialist counsellor. The waiting list is not a long one and we hope to offer you a long term counsellor within a month of your assessment. It really depends on when you want your counselling. The more flexible you are around days and times, the quicker we can start the counselling.

What happens after you receive a referral or contact?

Once we have received any contact we look to see how best we can plan to support the individual referred to us, whether this is a self-referral or one received through an agency.

We usually arrange a face-to-face assessment with the individual via email (or via phone or text if required) to ascertain the best way to provide support and agree a personalised support plan.

This could happen to be face-to-face counselling, group work, a referral onto our STEPS programme or signposting to other services, or a combination of these services.

Are the counsellors specialists?

Yes, all of our counsellors are BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) qualified and some have also achieved higher counselling accreditation status (proof of qualifications available upon request). All staff have had to undergo specialist sexual trauma training and have their own personal training development plans which they need to update each year as part of being a counsellor with us. They can support victims and survivors with sound knowledge and understanding of all the related issues and many of our counsellors are survivors themselves so understand how you might feel, especially at the beginning of the counselling. The Under-18s counsellors have had additional training in counselling the younger age-group. All our counsellors have regular updated training as well.

How much counselling can I have?

We offer a range of counselling services but usually clients have either 8, 12 weeks or 24 weeks of therapy depending on the initial assessed need. If you or we feel more counselling could be of benefit then this will be discussed with you towards the end of your planned counselling sessions and might be extended by another 6 sessions if necessary.

Counselling is usually weekly as once begun it is more productive if it happens regularly especially as you will be dealing with difficult and emotional issues which are best not left too long between your counselling sessions.

Do I have to pay for counselling?

As part of a charity we do receive a small amount of funding to provide a free counselling service to residents and those living in the areas we cover, but we do ask you at the beginning of your counselling to consider making a donation at each counselling session which goes towards us improving the counselling service we provide. We do provide a fee paying counselling service to those who reside out of our area but wish to come and see a specialist counsellor trained specifically in sexual abuse. The current fee for private counselling is £40 per session.

Is there any support after the counselling ends?

Yes. There are support groups, and other services available to offer ongoing support, such as our own peer support group. You can also come back for more counselling if you need to in the future.

Do you involve those you help in your services?

Yes, we ask all ex-clients when they finish their face-to-face counselling or group work if they would like to become involved with START through our “Friends of START” advisory panels. These meet every quarter to discuss and review a range of issues including policies, procedures and service improvements. We have both male and female advisory panels and are looking to develop an under-18s panel to work with our Under-18s team.

As part of our STEPS programme we plan to have a separate STEPS advisory panel with representatives from each of the STEPS groups.

Do you offer gender specific services?

Yes, though we have the same process, policies and procedures for all genders and ages. We also recognize that some services such as groupwork do require specific gender responses services and do offer female, male or transgender focused services based on on a needs led approach.

Can I complain if I am not happy, as it’s a free service?

Yes of course. You can write, e-mail or call and speak to the manager if you have any issues. If you are not happy with the way things are going its important to let us know so we can resolve anything that’s troubling you about the counselling.

How can I feedback on the services you provide?

We actively encourage all those clients we see or are involved with to tell us how we are doing, whether its good or bad feedback which helps us when we review our services. We do provide a feedback form to all those people we see at the end of their face to face counselling and to all those who attend any groups but if you have any issue you can either write in, call, e-mail us from our Contact page.

We raise any specific feedback at our regular advisory panel meetings in order to constantly improve our services.

Call our Advice & Support Line on 01962 868 688 or 01962 864 433

Anonymous SMS Text helpline service: 07860 027 793

Available 24 hours


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