Why Couples Counseling Does Not Work

Why Couples Counseling Does Not WorkCouples Counseling Won’t Stop The Violence, In Fact, It Could Potentially Increase Danger To The Victim..
Your partner may try to get you to both go to couples counseling, telling you that you both have a problem and should work on it together. Couples counseling does have its place in working out problems, but abusive relationships are not ones best handled in this venue. Abuse is something that batterers should address..ONLY. If you think the two of you would benefit from joint counseling, then by all means, go AFTER the Batterers Intervention Program is completed and there is no longer violence.

If your partner has entered an intervention program for batterers, you’re probably relieved that they are getting help. It’s important to know that there are no miracle cures for the violence-the batterer is the only one that can make the decision to change. This information will tell you what you need to know about a good program and what signs to watch for in your partner.

How Do You Know If The Program Will Work?

There are no guarantees that any program will work; a lot depends on your partner’s motivation and capacity for change. The programs that work will use the following standards:

  • Your safety is the first priority. Programs should always assess your safety when communicating with you. A program should never disclose information that you have given them without your permission. A program should not misrepresent its ability to change the abusers behavior.
  • Lasts long enough. Change takes time. Inquire as to the length of the program, in addition to any additional sessions that may be scheduled for orientation or evaluation. A year or more in a program is preferable, although that is not always possible.
  • Holds the abuser accountable. The first step of accountability is that the abuser takes responsible for choosing to use violence in a relationship. A program should recognize that the abuser’s behavior is the problem and will not allow them to use you as an excuse.
  • The curriculum gets to the root of the problem. The content of the program is set up to challenge the abuser’s underlying belief system that they have the “right” to control and dominate you. Problems that only address the abuser’s anger, communication skills, and stress do not get to the root of the problem.
  • Makes no demands on you to participate. You’re not the one with the problem. Some programs offer groups for partners of batters, but your participation is entirely optional. Don’t let any one lead you to believe that the abuser’s progress is dependent on your participation.
  • Is open to your input. If you initiate contact with the program to ask questions or give input you think might be useful, a program should welcome your participation. This is different from requiring you to participate. Sometimes, a program may initiate contact with you to discuss your partner’s behavior outside the program.
  • Encourage follow-up support. Completing a program does not guarantee the abuser will be non-violent. Staying non-violent can be a lifelong challenge. A program should promote self-help and social support beyond the duration of the program.

How Do You Know If The Program Is Really Working?

  • The violence and threats have stopped.
  • Responsibility for actions are being acknowledged.
  • You are not afraid to be with them.
  • You can express your anger without feeling intimidated.
  • Your opinion is being respected, even if it is not agreed with.
  • You have the right to say “no” without any additional repercussions.
  • You can negotiate without being humiliated or belittled.
  • You don’t have to ask permission to go about your daily business.
  • You are listened to and respected.
  • The abuser recognizes that they are not “cured” and that change is going to be a lifelong process.

Warning Signs

  • “VENTING” Is NOT OK. Techniques and therapies like pillow punching or primal screaming are NOT appropriate for batterers. They tend to reinforce, rather than discourage, violent behavior. These techniques should not be a part of any intervention program.
  • Manipulation. Old habits die hard. Your partner’s abusive behavior is rooted in a desire to control the relationship and that pattern will not change over night. They may no longer be violent, but may manipulate you into doing what they want. You may be so hopeful for change that you want to believe things are different. If you don’t feel safe, then chances are, you’re not.

Adapted from the Texas Council on Family Violence, 8701 N. MoPac Expressway, Suite 450 Austin, Texas 78759

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