Denial Is Not a Limiting Factor for Successful Outcome in Domestic Abuse Therapy
A Case Study
by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.
- Couple in Their 50’s with Blended Family
- Upper Middle Class Traditional Marital Roles
- Ongoing Verbal Abuse Escalating into Physical Abuse
Eve was a bright woman in her early 50’s married to Scott, a successful professional in his late 50’s. The couple enjoyed the finest restaurants and beach resorts. They had five children between them, and there was much love (as well as, classic blended family conflict) to go around for everyone.
From the outside looking in, they had it all. What was missing was as sense of personal safety for Eve. And with that gone, Scott lost his place in the both the marital bed and marital home. Despite their troubled waters, their love continued to surround them. Admittedly, Eve was dependently attached financially, and Scott emotionally dependent on Eve.
Without Scott’s knowledge, Eve discovered our services through the Internet and arranged an individual consultation for herself. It was clear that she was at her ropes end. The most recent verbal emotional altercation became dangerously physical, changing the reality of their private circumstances.
In our first appointment, Eve expressed concern over Scott’s resistance to change. He was so well rooted in his own denial; Eve was convinced that things would never be different.
Like many domestic abuse survivors, Eve believed that the way to shine the light was from the outside in, but her ray of “sunshine” repeatedly fell on deaf ears only to inflame matters between them. Most noteworthy about the progression with this couple is the way their case clearly demonstrates that domestic abuse accountability is an inside job…in which the light can only be shined from the inside out.
Intimate Partner Abuse Treatment Program
Eve continued working individually in treatment with me until she was inspired to inform Scott and invited him to join her in one of our phone sessions. He stepped into the call fully armed with resistance, denial and externalizing the blame for their conflict onto Eve and her children.
One thing Scott and Eve had in common was the love they had for each other. That was clear to all three of us and served as the green light to advance treatment—bringing Scott into therapy with Eve.
They both had one individual session per week and one session together. This provided for me to help each of them individually and to address the domestic abuse (though we didn’t call it that in the beginning) in the context of their relationship.
Over the course of treatment, Scott started identifying how he was controlling his wife and what personally triggered his doing so. He more clearly saw the impact of his abusive behavior not only on her but on himself as well.
Domestic Abuse Effectively Treated
Into the sixth month of treatment, there was a significant change in this couple. Scott was back home beginning month two and shortly after recognizing how he belittled Eve (and her children) to get his way. He became aware of his devaluing her to deal with his own vulnerability. With his sensitivity to and insights of triggers and consequences, his behavior changed. He progressed from partner-control to self-control.
Eve and Scott addressed issue-by-issue with continued authenticity and commitment, and they found common ground on personal and family matters previously swept under the carpet. Habits of communication ensued over the prior externalization and denial. The desire toward collaboration over the use of power and control tactics became a priority for both of them.
As with any couple, they had their fair share of up and downs. What was different for them was the fact that their difficult times no longer spiraled into verbal and physical abuse. They salvaged their marriage and family by creating new ways of interacting with one another that supported the integrity of their relationship and regard for each other.
For information about domestic abuse counseling, visit www.domesticviolencetreatment.org and break the cycle of abuse in your relationship. Psychologist Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps individuals nationwide end and heal from domestic abuse. © Jeanne King, Ph.D. — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention
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.