Sanctuary for the Abused
Friday, January 10, 2020
Couples' Counseling & Marriage Counseling Does NOT Work in Abusive Relationships!
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.
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.
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.