Domestic violence is a situation when the therapist/counselor has either direct knowledge or reasonable suspicion that spouse or lover abuse has occurred. While there isn’t any legally mandated duty for therapists to report the abuse, there is an ethical duty to intervene in an attempt to establish the victim’s safety.
Victims are often reluctant to acknowledge the abuse due to fear concerning needs and an inability to be self-supporting, low self-esteem; emotional dependency on spouse, the belief that it’s best for the children to have a father/mother in home and fear of retaliation, among other reasons.
The goals involved in domestic violence issues are protecting the victim from further abuse; obtaining medical treatment for the victim; establishing a treatment plan, focused on ending the patterns of abuse and building victim’s self esteem.
Interventions include referral to shelter for battered women or men; referral to police for possible filing of assault charges; referral to legal services for possible restraining order; connecting client with appropriate support system; encouraging client to consider either leaving the relationship or requiring partner to receive treatment as a condition for staying; and building self-esteem or assertiveness; absolving the victim from guilt; exploring family of origin dysfunctional patterns, beliefs and behaviors; confronting victim’s dysfunctional beliefs and referral to appropriate support group.
Additionally, among other important areas, we teach about the cycle of violence, how to deal with anger both past and present, cognitive re-structuring, communicating feelings and controlling anger.