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Helping your Client Identify Psychological Abuse
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In the last section, I asked you to assess
a client in the two areas: loss of power and disintegration of self image. In
this section... I will discuss ways in which victims of the power imbalance, caused
by feeling they have hooked their Great Catch, come to increase their
awareness to recognize the fact that controlling abusive behavior is taking place.
you know, there are many reasons women accept verbal abuse from their "Great
Catch." And just to recap a point made at the beginning of section #1, for
purposes of brevity, I am using the pronoun her and female names for cases of
the recipient of the abuse. However, I like you, have treated many males involved
in abusive relationships and same-sex relationships.
was married... for eight years to Jerry. She described how small things could ignite
Jerry's temper. When she stated her negative feelings about his outbursts, Jerry
refused to speak to her for hours or even days. Tina felt rejected and frustrated,
because she didn't know how to calm him down without causing further retaliation.
Tina said, "There was never any give and take in the relationship. I felt
I was doing all the giving.
♦ He was Perfect
The worst thing was that in Jerrys eyes he was
perfect, and I was the cause of most of his problems. I've been divorced for three
years now, but his standard list of criticisms still ring in my ears. "He'd
yell, 'You are such a slob. You're a bitch. You're lazy. How can you stand your
lazy self?' I still struggle against that sense of feeling like a failure. I wonder
if Jerry wasnt really right all along. Maybe I am a horrible, terrible,
nothing of a person."
you can see, Tina is unable to validate her pain. She's in denial that Jerry's
name-calling was abusive. She felt paralyzed and unable to shift her self-esteem
from the negative Jerry had created to a positive focus. She wasnt sure
if she was really suffering verbal abuses or not. Thus, as you can see, without
this awareness that abuse is taking place, Tina like Sandra, whom we discussed
in the previous section, could not change.
you have a client whom you feel you may have overlooked this basic step of client-awareness?
Perhaps you are trying to focus your session on actions to change, and the real
focus should be on first increasing your client's awareness of the abusive-controlling
Once I helped Tina truly define and become aware of her abuse, she began to be able to talk about it and express the pain of the abuse
as being a legitimate feeling. Ask yourself, How can I get my verbally abused
clients to recognize the validity of what they are feeling? Heres
a tool I used with both Sandra and Tina.
the course of several sessions, I discussed with Sandra and Tina two questions
they might consider in evaluating whether they felt they were experiencing abusive
controlling behavior in the relationship, where the felt they had gotten the Great
♦ Two Awareness-Increasing Questions
As you listen to these two awareness-increasing questions, think
about a client you are treating and how he or she might respond:
#1. Increases awareness of the instant-replay syndrome.
you repeatedly replay his voice mimicking or mocking you?" To what extent
does your abused client internalize their controlling partner's behaviors by replaying
his or her voice in their mind? I call this the instant replay syndrome.
#2. Increases awareness of the guilt trip strategy.
often feel that his verbal attacks were an attempt to make you feel guilty as
a means of controlling your behavior?" By labeling the Great Catch's
behavior as a guilt trip controlling strategy, both my clients, Sandra
and Tina were able to separate and identify their partners abusive behaviors
as being their partners problem rather than as a defect within themselves.
you need to go back to this basic therapy technique of labeling to move unconscious
behavior into the light of consciousness to assist your clients to grow? You might
use my label of the instant replay syndrome and my label of the
guilt trip. I find dusting off these "oldie-but-goodie" labels
can be a very effective therapy technique.
how I initiated this labeling technique in a session with Sandra. I asked her
to be an objective observer of her thoughts. Have you found, like I, this thought-observing-method
especially helpful when clients have negative self comparisons? I find three benefits
of thought-monitoring or observation: the separation from the thought process,
reduction of the attachment to the thoughts, and objectifying the abuse.
stated to Sandra, "Examine your thoughts objectively, the way you would study
someone elses thoughts, as if you had no emotional attachment to them."
For example, Sandras significant other, James, would say, "Our house
is never as clean as my mother's"
or, "Your Polish sausages never
taste as good as Moms." After practicing this thought-observing-method,
Sandy was able to recognize the source of these abuses as being her partner's
- Karakurt. G. and Silver, K. E. (2013). Emotional Abuse in Intimate Relationships: The Role of Gender and Age. Violence Victim, 28(5). 804-821.
next section will describe three tactics I used to initiate this labeling technique
The "instant-replay syndrome" and "guilt trip strategy"
are examples of what? To select and enter your answer go to .