COUPLES COUNSELING AND DRUG AND ALCOHOL
Batterers’ treatment groups
are not the same as marriage or couples counseling. The focus of batterers’
treatment groups is on ending the abuse while ensuring the victim’s safety,
not on keeping the relationship together or counseling the couple. Indeed,
many practitioners involved with batterers’ treatment groups believe that
it can be “unethical and dangerous for mental health professionals to offer
marriage counseling to couples when domestic violence has occurred” because
if the abuse is ongoing, the victim may be too afraid to talk freely with
a counselor for fear of retaliation from the perpetrator. From Michael
Paymar, Violent No More Helping Men End Domestic Abuse 219 (2000). Paymar,
the training coordinator for the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project
and a leading expert on batterers’ treatment groups, outlines the criteria
that should be met before a couple is offered joint counseling:
The man has successfully
completed a reputable domestic abuse program that focuses on changing
sexist beliefs and attitudes about controlling women.
A practitioner is convinced
that the battering—violence, coercion, threats, intimidation,
and psychological abuse—has ceased.
The battered woman has
worked with a victims’ advocate and has developed a safety plan
to get help if her partner becomes abusive.
The battered woman feels
The practitioner has
discussed the risks associated with marriage counseling privately with
the woman, and feels relatively sure abusive acts will not take place
as the result
of these sessions.
Some batterers’ treatment
groups have also mistakenly attempted to solve domestic abuse by using alcohol
or drug treatment therapy as part of their batterers’ treatment group. Focusing
on the perpetrator’s possible drug or alcohol
problem does not address the underlying causes of domestic violence.
Domestic violence is a pattern of abuse used by one of the partners in
relationship to maintain power and control over the other. Alcohol and
drug abuse “do not cause non-violent persons to become violent.” From Anne L. Ganley &
Susan Schechter, Domestic Violence: A National Curriculum for Family Preservation
Practitioners (1995). Many people who abuse alcohol or drugs
never batter their partners and research has shown that batterers who have
successfully completed alcohol treatment often continue to batter. These are
separate problems requiring separate solutions:
The [second] problem with
accepting alcohol and drug abuse as an excuse for violence is that society,
friends, and family—and often the mental health community—may view alcohol
or drugs as the primary problem. Many people assume that if a substance abuse
problem is resolved, the abuse and violent behavior will end. This is a dangerous
assumption for the partner of an abusive man. People who abuse alcohol or
drugs and act violently have two problems—not one. They need to address both.
Michael Paymar, Violent No More Helping Men End Domestic Abuse 219 (2000).
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Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights.
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