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You Made Me Hit You! Interventions with Male Batterers

Section 2
Group Therapy

Question 2 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we talked about three methods of altering attitudes in male batterers.

In this section, we will discuss working as a male-female therapist team as well as the pacing of the anger management session. There are many advantages to working as a therapeutic team, as well as some disadvantages, of course. My preference for the team arrangement came from my belief that the batterer population would present many in-session challenges that would be easier to deal with if two therapists were working together.

We do not assume that all the men we work with are angry with women in particular. But we do recognize, however, that some men will direct anger at a female therapist, rather than a male therapist. We find that these clients are much less likely to do so when a male-female team is used. So, Laura and I find that working as a team saves energy that otherwise would be used to deal with misdirected anger and confrontation. I have also found that a male-female team has the further advantage of providing a role model of a male and female "working together" and productively resolving differences.

Modeling Compromise & a Willingness to "Give In"
As a team, Laura and I openly disagree during sessions and discuss the disagreement. Thus, we aim to model compromise and a willingness to "give in" and experiment. However, clearly, it is important that my and Laura's disagreements not be a significant focus of the group. This, of course, would detract from the clients. When disagreements do arise, though, we address them openly.

4 Advantages for Using a Male-Female Team

Advantage # 1 - Takes the Pressure Off
A major advantage of working with Laura is that it takes pressure off. For example, I am able to take a moment to think of useful questions and compliments while Laura is asking a question. Another advantage is related to the pace of interaction between therapist and client. Laura and I find it helpful to keep clients fully engaged at all times, thinking and responding to questions and compliments.

This way, there is little time for interaction that is not purposeful. Group members begin to recognize that the pace will require them to be fully engaged in responding to questions and compliments. Some groups have referred to this as "being on the hot seat." How do you feel about the pacing of your sessions?

Advantage # 2 - Production of Useful Responses
I have noticed that it is often easier for the observing therapist to produce useful responses. I suspect that this is because the observer has a unique point of view and can see the process from a broader, less engaged perspective, and is not under pressure to provide an immediate response. Within the group process, we view ourselves as "thoughtful observers" when our interviewing partner is engaged with the client. We evaluate what is working and consider what might be more helpful, as if we were behind a one-way mirror. Do you have clients you are currently treating as an individual therapist with whom you might consider using a second therapist?

Advantage # 3 - Shifting Focus toward Resolution
As you know, problems with defensive or threatening clients can certainly occur in any therapy session. When threats do arise in a session, we find it is often very helpful to have the less involved therapist take the lead in shifting the focus toward a resolution. In such situations, it is common for the anger or energy to be directed at one of us. Generally, the other teammate is able to ask questions that bring the focus back to the work at hand. We find that the less affected therapist can also draw support from the group when the time is right to further defuse the situation. These types of situations are rare in Laura's and my experience, but when they do occur, it is very helpful to be working as a team.

Advantage # 4 - Play with Ideas
Laura and I support each other and compliment each other for our good work. We hold each other accountable for not only "talking the talk" but also "walking the walk." I find that when Laura and I are most playful as a team, we are the most effective. We are of course serious, diligent, and determined about our work. We recognize, though, that in part our effectiveness lies in our ability to get our clients and ourselves to play with ideas and behavior when the situation presents itself. What kind of team involvement do you currently have? Would it be worth your time to replay this section, which reviews therapy-team-basics to see if there are some obvious points that you may have been overlooking regarding your team involvement?

In the next section, we will discuss three stages of abuse.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Janis, R. A., Burlingame, G. M., & Olsen, J. A. (2018). Developing a therapeutic relationship monitoring system for group treatment. Psychotherapy, 55(2), 105–115.

Kivlighan, D. M., Jr. (2011). Individual and group perceptions of therapeutic factors and session evaluation: An actor–partner interdependence analysis. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 15(2), 147–160.

Zarling, A., Bannon, S., & Berta, M. (2019). Evaluation of acceptance and commitment therapy for domestic violence offenders. Psychology of Violence, 9(3), 257–266. 

What are advantages to the use of a male-female therapy team? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 3
Table of Contsents