Sanctuary for the Abused

Monday, August 11, 2014

Couples' Counseling & Marriage Counseling Does NOT Work in Abusive Relationships!

If you are struggling with a relationship, some people may advise you to get marriage counseling, or couples' counseling. While this can be good advice in some relationships, it is NOT good for couples where there is emotional, verbal, psychological or physical violence.

In fact, in many cases, couples' counseling has increased the violence/abuse in the home.

Couples' counseling does not work because:

Couples' counseling places the responsibility for change on both partners. Domestic violence is the sole responsibility of the abuser.

Couples' counseling works best when both people are truthful. Individuals who are abusive to their partners minimize, deny and blame, and therefore are not truthful in counseling.

Couples resolve problems in counseling by talking about problems. His abuse is not a couple problem, it is his problem. He needs to work on it in a specialized program for abusers.

A victim who is being abused in a relationship is in a dangerous position in couple's counseling. If she tells the counselor about the abuse, she is likely to suffer more abuse when she gets home. If she does not tell, nothing can be accomplished.

If you think you will benefit from joint counseling, go AFTER he successfully completes a batterer's intervention program and is no longer violent for one full year.

Would marriage counseling be better? He won't go for help unless I go with him.

No. Domestic violence advocates strongly advise battered women not to participate in couples counseling, family counseling, and mediation programs. It may not be safe to talk about your feelings in front of someone who could hurt you later and blame his behavior on what you say.

Many battered women say that these kinds of counseling do not stop the violence and often increase their danger. Also, going to counseling together suggests that you share responsibility for his violence.

You are never responsible for his violence. Even if your partner is not willing to change, support and assistance in figuring out what you want to do are available at your local domestic violence program. They can help you plan for your safety.

Couples counseling is NEVER an appropriate way to deal with domestic violence. Therapists who offer couples counseling when domestic violence has occurred or is occurring do not understand the dynamics of domestic violence, and are practicing unethical and unsafe services. Men who abuse need to be in group intervention programs with other abusers.

Be wary of anyone who advises couples or marriage counseling. This isn't appropriate for abusive relationships. Most communities have agencies that provide individual counseling and support groups to women in abusive relationships.

Perpetrator Intervention Programs For Abusers

Abusers can enter voluntarily or be court ordered to Perpetrator Intervention Programs. It is important to note that there are no guarantees that he will change his violent behavior. He is the only one that can make the decision -- and commitment -- to change.

An intervention program should include these factors:

Victim's safety is the priority.
Meets minimum standards for weekly sessions (16 weeks).
Holds him accountable.
Curriculum addresses the root of his problem.
Makes no demand on the victim to participate.
Is open to input from the victim.

What programs teach:

Education about domestic violence.
Changing attitudes and beliefs about using violence in a relationship.
Achieving equality in relationships.
Community participation.

In the program, an abuser should become aware of his pattern of violence and learn techniques for maintaining nonviolent behavior, such as "time outs" "buddy" phone cals, support groups, relaxation techniques, and exercise.

How do you know if he is really changing?

Positive signs include:

He has stopped being violent or threatening to you or others
He acknowledges that his abusive behavior is wrong
He understands that he does not have the right to control and dominate you
You don't feel afraid when you are with him.
He does not coerce or force you to have sex.
You can express anger toward him without feeling intimidated.
He does not make you feel responsible for his anger or frustration.
He respects your opinion even if he doesn't agree with it.
He respects your right to say "no."

Am I safe while he is in the program?

For your own safety and your children's safety, watch for these signs that indicate problems while he is in the program:

Tries to find you if you've left.
Tries to get you to come back to him.
Tries to take away the children.
Stalks you.
If you feel you are in danger, contact the National Domestic Violence crisis line.

Six Big Lies

If you hear your partner making these statements while he is in a treatment program for abusers, you should understand that he is lying to himself, and to you.
"I'm not the only one who needs counseling."
"I'm not as bad as a lot of other guys in there."
"As soon as I'm done with this program, I'll be cured."
"We need to stay together to work this out."
"If I weren't under so much stress, I wouldn't have such a short fuse."
"Now that I'm in this program, you have to be more understanding."

Questions Women Often Have About Batterers and Batterer Programs

He says that I do things to make him angry. Am I to blame for his violence?

No. Abusive men often blame other people or situations for their violence. Many say their partners provoke them. The truth is that no one can cause another person to be violent. His violence is never justified. How he behaves is his choice and his responsibility. In fact, you can probably think of times where other people made him angry and he chose not to respond to them with violence or abuse.

What is a batterer program?

Not all batterer programs are the same, but some of them include education about domestic violence, and what communities are doing to hold abusers accountable. Depending on the program, the education can include informing your partner that he alone is responsible for what he does, that abuse destroys families and that he can change if he chooses to.

How would my partner get into a batterer program?
Most batterers participate because the court ordered them to do so. Many men say that they would not have gone or stayed in the program if they had not been court ordered. Some men attend without a court order, and others go as a way to convince their partners not to leave or to take them back. Unless a batterer is truly committed to being accountable for his behavior and to stop being controlling, he is unlikely to change his behavior, with or without a batterer program.

Will he stop abusing me if he attends a batterer program?

Any man can stop being violent and abusive if he really wants to stop. Some batterer programs provide good information to participants. However, going to a batterers program does not guarantee that he will stop battering and does not guarantee that you will be safe. In fact, many men who are attending or have attended a batterer program continue to be violent and/or controlling.

To best protect yourself and your children, it is recommended that you keep in contact with your local battered women's services/program, especially while he is attending the batterer program. To find out what options and support services are available to you in your community and to learn more about batterer programs, you can contact your local domestic violence program or shelter.

My partner says he'll get help for his drinking. If he stops drinking, will he stop being violent?

Don't count on it. Alcohol and other drug abuse do not cause domestic abuse, even though batterers often use substance abuse as an excuse for their violence.

Batterers who drink or use drugs have two separate problems that need to be handled independently. Even if your partner stops using alcohol or other drugs, he is likely to continue to be abusive.

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shared by Barbara at 12:55 AM



Thank you for this page, it is very helpful in identifying key traits in a good or bad person. Thank you.

5:13 PM  

I can attest that couple's counseling does NOT work! A few years ago I finally "convinced" my husband to go see someone with me. It was the most horrible experience as my husband got the counselor on his "side" and they became these buddies. I was left looking like I had the problem and finally I just said no more.
My husband left last year after 20 years of emotional, verbal and mental abuse...lots of good the counseling did. And the counselor I now see told me recently that the counselor my h and I had seen a few years ago, whom she knows, told her that he realized after we quit coming that he had dropped the ball and there were more serious problems than what he realized.
DO NOT ever go together as a couple for counseling when there is any type of abuse. Go by yourself to get help to heal and let your spouse go if they choose to. DO NOT ever try to force them to go, they have to take responsibility and choose to change.
Better yet, if there is abuse in the marriage or dating relationship, get out and don't look back. IF and only IF an abuser chooses to truly accept responsibility for their actions, not blaming you or anyone else, and shows a true repentance and change, than you can decide whether to give them another chance.

10:55 PM  

The counselors are a waste of time. Some will be honest and tell you get out, but they are middle class and do not understand the financial and other ramifications and have a job to keep them fed and housed. Others will counsel the two of you and Ive been down that road, but I learned quick not to be too honest. The abuser will sit there and barely say a word, that is a game they play and refuse to be drawn out even on the most mild confrontation. If you are being abused, my advice is to try and build real relationships and others to help you too. One thing abusers have no self-insight or desire to change. They think they are always right. The only way counseling works is if people admit they have problems and desire to solve them.

1:37 PM  

You got so many points here, that's why i love reading your post. Thank you so much!

4:28 AM  

Thanks for discussing this issue. I really like the content of your post very much. Thanks for sharing this marvelous stuff.

3:38 AM  

I agree. Couples counseling when there is abuse implies that the problems are mutual. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I participated in marital therapy for 7 years only to be mocked in between sessions by my H.

8:44 AM  

Here are two links about dealing with domestic violence at the hands of an ex while going through a divorce:

I hope they will be helpful.

12:23 AM  

Couples' Counseling & Marriage Counseling Does NOT Work in Abusive Relationships! Because it does not address the issue. If there is abuse, then abuse is the ONLY issue — not “communication” problems or any other type of mutual interaction problem, so couples counseling will not address this situation properly — and may in fact make it worse. Thanks.

Counselling services melbourne

2:46 AM  

Well explained article

5:03 AM  

would love to get in contact wth you.any way of emailing?

2:02 AM  

My Brother and his Wife are going through couples counseling in Yorkville IL, and I was wondering, what does it usually help with?

9:55 PM  

Great think define in this post that which is good and bad and what is need of couple counseling.

12:45 AM  

Thanks for the article! After a huge blow up the other night my verbally/emotionally abusive husband finally agreed to counseling... couples counseling. Is there any way I can communicate to the counselor he chooses that I'm being abused without him getting suspicious/angry?

8:37 PM  

I am worried about the same thing. My husband and I start 'couples' therapy tonight and I didn't mention the domestic violence, only his suicide threats. I don't know how to bring the other stuff up and was hoping they might be able to 'guess'?? i am worried it will go badly and that it will set him 'off' again when we get home. So worried on one hand, not sure what I am worried about on the other (I know it is bad, that is why I contacted a therapist???)

9:15 AM  

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