Domestic Abuse Counseling – How to Engage
Your Partner in Abusive Relationship Therapy

Dr. King


by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.


Identifying the problem is half of the solution. We hear this in healthcare and in domestic abuse counseling, too.

But when you are on the receiving end of domestic abuse, you often lose sight of the fact that identifying the problem is part of the treatment. Battered women expect their abusive partners to have admitted that they are batterers in order to enter into therapy. Not true!

In fact, more often than not, batterers voluntarily entering into domestic abuse therapy are in denial that they are abusive. They come into treatment because of the “problems in their relationship.”

The domestic violence intervention is usually inspired by the victim, and her engagement in the therapeutic process is followed by her abusive partner. He may see her as “the problem” and become open to participation because he wants the relationship to work. Bottom line is that he doesn’t want to lose her.

Denial Is Not an Obstacle to Domestic Abuse Treatment

Denial is truly part of the problem and eliminating it is not a prerequisite for entering into domestic abuse counseling. Recognition, ownership and accountability are part of the therapeutic process.

Sometimes we hear battered women say, “My partner will never admit to being abusive.” “He is in complete denial.” And from here, they wallow in hopelessness.

I believe that if an abusive partner has self-identified as an abuser and recognizes his abusive thinking and behavior, then he is halfway home with respect to his rehabilitation. And this same abuser, before acknowledging that he is abusive, is also eligible for a successful outcome in domestic abuse therapy.

Relationship Therapy for Combative Behavior

While I prefer the term “Abusive Relationship Therapy” to describe domestic violence treatment, I see the value in referring to it as “Relationship Therapy for Combative Behavior.” The concept of combative behavior carries less stigma and is more easily recognized by those who engage in it.

If you are in an abusive relationship and you are the only one seeing it as such, don’t despair over the possibility of you and your partner having a good prognosis. Realize that the process of self-identification and ownership are cornerstones of effective therapeutic process. Appreciate that facilitating this responsibility-taking is the job of your therapist.

Be flexible in your choice of words to describe the type of intervention and help that you seek for you and your partner. Choose words that you know he will understand and motives that you know he will appreciate. You can be as vague as saying, “The intervention will help with the kind of issues we have.” And lastly, once again, don’t expect your partner to be in admission of his abusive behavior in order for the two of you to be eligible for abusive relationship therapy.

For more information about domestic abuse counseling, visit www.enddomesticabuse.org/spousal_abuse_tx.php. Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people nationwide end and heal from domestic abuse. Copyright 2010 Jeanne King, Ph.D. – Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention

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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.