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How to Avoid Arrogance Traps
In the last section we discussed how Jamie, a 21-year-old pregnant woman, was resistant to accept the dangers of her situation after she heard the basic domestic violence information. This, as you know, may not be unusual for a client who has recently been battered.
However, the point of this section is not to deal with Jamie’s resistance, but to provide three steps that your supervisee may use when dealing with his or her own mistake of arrogance. Are you currently working with a supervisee with an arrogance countertransference reaction? What do you feel would be appropriate for you to discuss related to working through past conflicts?
Have you found, like I, that it is hard to avoid the mistake of arrogance when dealing with a client like Jamie? There are three main Traps of Arrogance that I find I must work to avoid when treating battered clients.
3 Main Traps of Arrogance Your Supervisee May Exhibit
Trap #1: Imposing My Own Reality and Values
The first trap of arrogance or burnout I try to avoid is imposing my own reality and values upon my client. As you know, victims of battering live in a cultural script that dictates how they are "supposed" to extract themselves from abusive relationships. Does your supervisee have this problem, of unwittingly imposing his or her values on a client by encouraging the client to stay away from their partner, obtain a job, and secure housing?
Remember Jamie from the previous section? Here is a mistake I made. By subconsciously believing leaving was the best course of action for Jamie, I made the mistake of paying little attention to how Jamie defined her reality. What were Jamie’s values? What did Jamie want for herself and for her unborn child? In retrospect, Jamie provided clues about her reality throughout the course of our session.
Exercise for the Supervisee
Think of a battered client you are currently treating. Is she like Jamie, in that she wants the violence to end, but not her relationship with her partner? Do you think that your own arrogance may have caused you to ignore whether your Jamie may have benefited by discovering ways that couples can settle conflict without resorting to physical violence?
Moreover, in retrospect, I do not believe that Jamie viewed herself as a battered woman, yet this is how I was treating her. I believe that Jamie was in the "Precontemplation Stage of Change". By this, I mean she was likely in denial and discounted the severity of her abuse in an effort to believe the good side of Paul. Do you agree that by not considering Jamie’s construct of reality and stage of change, I had devised a contact with Jamie that was actually harmful?
Trap #2: Assuming the Dominant Role
The second trap of arrogance, I find, is assuming the dominant role. In my sessions with Jamie, I found that I had begun to take the dominant role by telling Jamie to do things, whether she liked it or not. For example, I suggested that Jamie move away from Paul, but she had never lived alone or had substantial employment to support herself. I also assumed a dominant role with Jamie by not allowing her to have a voice in her goals. In retrospect, I could have asked Jamie what steps she felt she might take to relieve herself from Paul's abuse. Having done this would have given Jamie a voice in shaping her own goals and objectives.
Trap #3: Disempowering a Battered Client
In addition to the traps of Imposing my own Reality, Values, and Assuming the Dominant Role, I feel it is also important to avoid falling into the third trap of arrogance, disempowering a battered client. As you know, an important word in dealing with battered women is "empowerment". However, I felt my work with Jamie was disempowering, replicating her abusive relationship with Paul. In my sessions with Jamie , I found myself disempowering Jamie in two main ways:
1. Inequity between myself and Jamie. Jamie was vulnerable, and it was unlikely she would ever challenge the contract I had created. This brings up a paradox to consider. As you know, while wanting to facilitate empowerment, a supervisee may at the same time devise goals and objectives that may possibly disagree with the battered woman's feelings of comfort. I often remind myself to be aware that objectives will have to be modified based on a client's stage of change. Realizing Jamie’s vulnerability could have helped in my sessions with Jamie.
2. Discounting Jamie feelings about Paul. I feel I also disempowered Jamie by discounting her feelings about Paul. As you know, men who batter often discount their partner's feelings by saying women are "crazy" or "stupid" for feeling a certain way or for expressing a certain opinion. While I never described Jamie as "stupid" or "crazy", my behavior did convey a negative attitude about her life, behaviors, and attitudes. I did not encourage her to talk about Paul's good side, but instead I focused on the escalation of his violence. Do you agree that by not encouraging Jamie to talk about the good things, to a certain extent, I failed to show Jamie the compassion she needed?
Telling Her Story
Rather than imposing my values and walking along the fine line of arrogance, I feel the better approach for me to have taken with Jamie would have been to devise a safety plan and encourage her to tell her story. The average battered woman leaves 7 to 8 times before permanently leaving a relationship.
3 Ways Jamie Defined Reality
In successive sessions, by creating a safety plan and by allowing Jamie to tell her story, Jamie was later able to construct a new definition of reality in three ways:
1. Jamie got the message that her life was worth something.
2. Hearing Jamie’s story gave me an idea of what was important in her life.
3. Jamie’s telling of her story allowed her to look at her life and her potential barriers toward change.
In this section I have discussed three "Traps of Arrogance" to avoid when working with victims of domestic violence. These three traps are: Imposing my own Reality and Values, Assuming the Dominant Role, and Disempowering. Does your supervisee struggle to avoid these traps of arrogance when working with a battered client? If this struggle could be at a subconscious level, would bringing it to your supervisee’s conscious awareness decrease burnout?
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Callahan, J. L., Love, P. K., & Watkins, C. E., Jr. (2019). Supervisee perspectives on supervision processes: An introduction to the special issue. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 13(3), 153–159.
Clevinger, K., Albert, E., & Raiche, E. (2019). Supervisor self-disclosure: Supervisees’ perceptions of positive supervision experiences. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 13(3), 222–226.
Enlow, P. T., McWhorter, L. G., Genuario, K., & Davis, A. (2019). Supervisor–supervisee interactions: The importance of the supervisory working alliance. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 13(3), 206–211.
What is the 3 Main Traps of Arrogance Your Supervisee May Exhibit? To select and enter your answer go to .