Beyond Labels
Working with Abuse Survivors with Mental Health Disabilities or Substance Use Issues
Beyond Labels explores the relationship between domestic and sexual violence, mental health, and substance use. This is a guide for domestic and sexual violence staff seeking to improve their response to survivors who have mental health disabilities and substance use issues related to violence and abuse. It is based on the wisdom of survivors, national leaders in crisis services and trauma recovery, and domestic violence and sexual assault professionals.

This guide provides: 

  • Strategies for working with survivors of violence who are experiencing depression, anxiety, dissociation, flashbacks, hallucinations, self-injury, substance misuse or addiction, and a number of other symptoms of violence and abuse
  • Options for working with survivors struggling with substance use, including harm reduction strategies, and models for understanding substance abuse and addiction
  • Tips for creating a welcoming environment for survivors with mental health symptoms related to chronic abuse and violence
  • Responses to frequently asked questions about working with survivors in shelter, on the hotline, in sexual assault services, and through peer support programs
  • A review of traditional and alternative treatments for traumatic experiences
  • Information about psychotropic medication, drugs, and alcohol, including symptoms and withdrawal

For more information about the manual and/or our Disability Services program, please contact Shell Schwartz at