Marriage counselling and DV depends on the following
Marriage counselling and DV traditionally don’t work. But if it’s the difference between you not doing anything about the quality of yours and your children’s lives – then it’s the best thing you could ever do.
What makes Marriage counselling and DV work?
Both partners commitment to improving their lives.
Total commitment to do whatever it takes makes Marriage counselling and DV work.
You might both need to go to separate groups for men and women to unlearn the domestic violence [DV] habits and patterns. These groups provide the confidential space for you to be truly open about your feelings, which can be too hurtful in a couple-counselling session.
Some important features of Marriage counselling and DV
- Limited confidentiality
Full disclosure will ensure that episodic violence can be effectively targeted rather than perpetuated by secrecy and collusion. This agreement establishes a strong and honest therapeutic bond. Within the contract of limited confidentiality, the couple needs to agree to regular individual check in sessions as an adjunct intervention for ongoing assessment.
- Safety planning for the whole family
Here the couple agree upon appropriate methods of emotional management to avoid conflict escalation and keep the whole family safe. The couple’s capacity for safety and trust in their relationship will increase over time so the first steps should involve simple de-escalation methods such as time out. Regular sessions will also give the couple a safe place to process conflict and should be part of the agreed safety plan.
- Cycle of violence and the cycle of feeling avoidance
Episodic violence does not usually occur without some build-up and triggering. Understanding the patterns of build-up is an essential part of stopping escalation. The cycle of feeling avoidance can be very useful in helping the couple understand how violence becomes cyclical, perpetuated and inevitably escalated within the relationship dynamic (this is a great benefit from groupwork with other men or women who are working through similar things.).
- Family of origin/attachment work
It may be some time before this can begin.
- Safety in the relationship needs to be established first. The therapist must ensure the safety of the bond before this work can proceed. The risk is that personal issues can be used against the other which will cause severe rupturing of trust. An emotion-focused couples’ approach can lead to strong reactivity and inadvertently heighten risk. It might be more helpful to do individual therapy in the early stages of healing childhood trauma.
When to proceed with Marriage counselling and DV?
The above and following has been adapted from an Australian Psychological Society article https://www.psychology.org.au/inpsych/2015/october/weiss
Indicators of Intimate Partner Violence
- Subjective fear and attempts at minimisation of conflict
- Gendered use of power and control
- Blaming and justification
- Jealousy and social isolation
- Arguments that result in one or other partner leaving
- Stonewalling or contempt in communication
- Constant and repetitive arguments that end in leaving
- Using sexual intimacy for emotional regulation
- Involvement of children in conflictual patterns
Research has shown that male violence can be differentiated into sub-types and that these exist along a continuum of severity (Johnson and Ferraro, 2000; Holtzworth-Munroe et al, 2000; Jacobsen and Gottman, 1998).
The most clinically useful is the distinction made by Gottman between Characterological Violence and Situational Violence. In characterological Interpersonal Violence [IPV] the violence is severe, there is more minimisation and denial and no matter what the woman does to avoid episodes of violence, she has no impact on the escalation. This implies very high levels of danger for women as the violence is unpredictable, gendered and focussed on control. There is absolutely no utility for couples’ therapy in these cases. In fact, it is contraindicated as the therapy room will most often become another place to control and manipulate. Threats to the safety of therapist may also be of concern. The best treatment options lie within correctional or family violence services, so the intervention here is to facilitate a referral to these services.
More hopeful Marriage counselling and DV
At the lowest level of the IPV continuum is the man who displays the less severe ‘situational’ violence called so because there is often a clear precipitating event. These men are likely to be remorseful and will readily take responsibility.
While the behaviour should always be considered as potentially dangerous, the man will not be expressing the need to control. There may sometimes be a tendency in these relationship for the female to act out too as the relationship becomes more reactive and triggering.
In cases of situational violence, couples’ therapy may be considered as a treatment option. Ideally this is an adjunct to individual therapy particularly in cases of addiction or other mental health disorders.
The following questions should be answered positively as a guide of when to proceed with Marriage counselling and DV
- Are both parties reporting the same severity of violence in individual interview?
- Is this violence of the less severe and less frequent type?
- Is there evidence that arguments are mutual?
- Is the female reporting that she wants to stay in the relationship?
- Is the female reporting that she feels safe in the relationship?
- Are the children safe and well cared for?
- Is the man willing to accept full responsibility for his potential to do harm?
- Has the man expressed empathy and remorse?
- Are both parties working on their mental health problems? (if relevant)