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Batterer Intervention Programs
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the last section, we discussed working as a therapeutic team.
Now let's look at an
overview of three stages of abuse. I find that when I ask members of my
anger management group to talk about their abusive actions, they tend to describe
three stages of abuse. Stage one is "Something snaps." Stage two is
"Abuse isn't worth Jail Time." Stage three is "Stopping the Abuse."
As you listen to an overview of the interventions I used for each of these three
stages, think about whether you have used, or could use, the interventions with
a physically abusive client of yours.
3 Stages of Abuse
♦ Stage # 1 - "Something
In Man to Man, Edleson calls the first stage
the "Something Snaps" stage. When I asked Ian, a 35-year-old unemployed
painter, to talk about how his violence starts, he stated, "It just seems
automatic. Something snaps and wham! I go off like a gun!"
four causes of the "Something Snaps" stage. Those causes are:
Two Key Questions
I wanted to increase Ian's
awareness of Edleson's four causes of the "Something Snaps" stage. So,
I urged Ian to consider two key questions about himself:
When did the abuse begin?
-- 2. What caused the anger to take over?
As you know, it is difficult for many
clients to pinpoint and verbalize the beginnings of their behavior. I found that
when put on the spot by other group members during a session, Ian was better able
to answer these questions. Thus, Ian began to think about what was causing himto snap. For instance, Ian began to realize that something snapped inside him
when he lost his job. I suggested that the depression that resulted from being
fired was a possible cause of his "Something Snaps" stage.
♦ Stage # 2 - "Abuse
Isn't Worth Jail Time"
Edleson refers to the second stage of abuse
as the "Abuse Isn't Worth Jail Time" stage. After several sessions,
Ian stated, "My wife Heather's always dumping all her problems on me, like
how she keeps getting the late shift at the restaurant. But, yelling and giving
her a smack or two never stops her from complaining. Sure, she'll stop talking
for a while, but the next day she's whining again. Then, damn it, the next thing
I know, she's called the cops and I end up in jail, before a judge and ordered
to this damn group."
asked Ian if he was beginning to realize that Abuse Isn't Worth Jail Time. As
you know, batterers like Ian often realize, after the fact, that they are severely
damaging their spouses and children. However, batterers like Ian fail to realize
this fact while they are inflicting inerasable physical and emotional abuse onto
their loved ones. I asked Ian if jail time is the outcome that he wanted. He stated
Disputing Method for Intervention
So, Ian had begun to realize that "abuse isn't worth
jail time." To further emphasize this point, I used Ellis's "Practical
Disputing" Method. I asked Ian where abuse would lead him. At first he downplayed
the negative results of his actions. Finally he stated, "It might get me
sent to jail." I asked what effects jail time would have on his current lifestyle
Ian stated, "That would ruin my life. I mean, at least it
would ruin my life as I see it now. You know how some employers are. They run
a background check. With jail time on my record, no one would trust me in their
house to paint." I find that the use of Practical Disputing helps eliminate
the excuses that I consistently see my clients using.
♦ "Taking Responsibility" Examination
I wanted to increase
Ian's awareness that when he verbally and physically abuses Heather, he may be
emotionally destroying the person he cares about the most. To help Ian understand
the concept of emotionally destroying his wife, I used the "Taking Responsibility"
Examination. Here's how I applied this method. I asked Ian, as well as the rest
of the group, to consider those things about themselves they have control over.
After some group discussion, Ian stated, "I have control over smacking Heather.
But I don't have control over when she starts to whine." Think of a client
you are currently treating. Would the "Taking Responsibility" Examination
be beneficial in your next session?
♦ Stage # 3 - "Stopping the Abuse"
have found that the "Taking Responsibility" Examination is helpful in
leading clients toward the "Stopping the Abuse" stage. In order to get
Ian thinking about the "Stopping the Abuse" stage, I asked him, "How
can you stop the behavior that leads to your violence?"
you currently treating a physically abusive client who is ready for the Stopping
the Abuse stage? Would Ellis's Practical Disputing be of assistance in your next
this section, I discussed an overview of the three stages of abuse that batterers
experience during their abusive relationship and the therapy process. In the next
section, we will discuss red flags that a batterer might learn to recognize as preceding
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Connors, A. D., Mills, J. F., & Gray, A. L. (2013). Intimate partner violence intervention for high-risk offenders. Psychological Services, 10(1), 12–23.
Levesque, D. A., Ciavatta, M. M., Castle, P. H., Prochaska, J. M., & Prochaska, J. O. (2012). Evaluation of a stage-based, computer-tailored adjunct to usual care for domestic violence offenders. Psychology of Violence, 2(4), 368–384.
Lila, M., Gracia, E., & Catalá-Miñana, A. (2018). Individualized motivational plans in batterer intervention programs: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 86(4), 309–320.
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