Domestic Abuse Counseling
The Complexities of Couples Therapy
When the Psychopathology Is Severe

Dr. King



by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.


Sometimes individuals in abusive relationships end up in couples therapy and wonder why it didn’t work? Has that happened to you in domestic abuse therapy?

You so want to remedy the abuse in your marriage, and you know the dynamics of your relationship contribute to the discord between you and your partner. So, naturally you think the solution rests in “couples therapy” with someone who claims to “know” about abuse.

Domestic Abuse Expertise Versus Psychological Expertise

Knowledge about abuse and interactional therapy may not be the only requirement in some cases. It may be necessary for either one or both of the parties to also have individual treatment concurrently to alter the abuse dynamic in the marriage. Here’s why...

When the psychopathology of one of the individuals in the marriage is the primary trigger for the underlying abusive interaction, couples therapy doesn’t cut it. In situations where the mental illness of one of the individuals goes unaddressed, couple’s therapy can’t manage it. The individual with the psychopathology must be treated separately.

For example, if there is a delusional process in one of the individuals, interactional therapy doesn’t touch the root cause of conflict. The delusional disorder continues to reveal itself and overshadow the couple’s ability to implement the psycho-educational principles of their couple’s therapy.

If there is a drug addiction in one of the individuals, couples therapy doesn’t provide for that. Without substance abuse specific intervention, couples conflict that is a byproduct of drug abuse remains intact.

If a personality disorder lurks in the mix, even worse…couples therapy, nor abuse therapy, directly treat these severe psychiatric disorders. Without proper professional psychiatric or psychological management of these disorders, you cannot expect interactional therapy to arrest the relationship dysfunction.

Treating Domestic Abuse in Marriage

Domestic abuse counseling is not a catch all for the “right” therapy when one or two of the individuals evidences abusive behavior. If you have tried couples therapy or domestic abuse counseling, and you recognize that your relationship is resistant to the treatment remedy, look to additional diagnostics.

Find a professional to properly diagnose the dynamics in play within the relationship, as well as the psychological status of the individual players.

Do your homework before you continue to invest your heart and soul in a therapeutic process to insure that you are properly treating what hurts. You and your partner will be more likely to have greater success by addressing the psychosocial and psychological issues contributing to the domestic abuse in your marriage.

For more information about domestic abuse counseling, visit and claim your Free Instant Access to Survivor Success eInsights. Psychologist Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps couples nationwide end and heal domestic abuse. © Jeanne King, Ph.D. — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention

If you want an insight article everyday or you want your questions addressed in an insight article, visit One Article a Day.

Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.