When two people are experiencing challenges in their relationship, often one of the first suggestions people will make is that the couple should start going to couples counseling.
Is that still the right answer when it comes to domestic violence cases though? Is couples counseling a safe, practical recommendation, or could it potentially make things worse?
Domestic violence is a complex issue, one that can be dangerous, and even fatal, when it’s not dealt with properly. It’s important to not only be able to recognize the signs of abuse in yourself or a loved one, but also be equipped with the knowledge that will help you navigate the situation.
In this article, we’re going to discuss the role that couples counseling plays in domestic violence cases, whether or not counseling is enough to prevent or end the abuse, as well as provide alternative resources for domestic violence victims.
What is couples counseling?
Couples counseling is a specific form of counseling designed for romantic partners, whether formally married or “together” by other means.
It has many benefits and is often very successful at helping partners reach new levels of empathy, understanding, and healing. At its core, couples counseling is meant to help foster true, sustainable love and harmony between people.
What couples counseling is not, is a cure-all. While it can help partners resolve issues, gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other, and foster healthier communication, it cannot fix the toxic dysfunction of an abusive relationship.
When domestic violence is actively occurring in a relationship, couples counseling is rarely effective. In many cases, it can be counterproductive and sometimes even cause more harm than good.
For counseling to “work,” both individuals have to be willing to acknowledge their faults and commit to healing and growing together. These components are lacking in abusive situations because of two reasons: one, the perpetrator is typically unwilling to do those things, and two, counseling implies both people are contributing to the problem, when in reality, abuse is never at the fault of the victim.
In addition, couples counseling can actually increase danger for the victim. Certain perpetrators of violence are excellent manipulators. They can subtly use the therapist’s healthy suggestions (such as the recommendation of setting boundaries or making compromises) to further control their partner.
Perpetrators may also later use what their partner said in therapy (in vulnerable honesty) against them, as well as (potentially violently) express negative emotions about the counseling once they’re alone with their partner again.
Domestic violence resources
Domestic violence can look different in each relationship, and people experiencing this abuse will need different levels of support in order to get out of their situation and rebuild a happier, healthier life.
The most common, safe, and effective domestic violence resources are hotlines, support groups, individual counseling, and shelters.
Domestic violence hotlines are not a long-term solution for someone experiencing abuse, but they can be a great first step, one that can provide short-term advice as well as help people work through immediate situations.
Domestic violence support groups are a way to connect with other people who have had similar experiences to yours. The solidarity and support that comes with surrounding yourself with people who understand is immeasurably powerful, especially on a journey to healing.
Those who have suffered, or are actively suffering from, domestic violence often benefit greatly from individual counseling. Counseling can be a great way to learn how to process intense emotions (such as fear, anger, confusion) in the present, as well as learn how to process and regulate emotions in the future.
Domestic violence shelters — also known as safe houses — are secret locations that exist to serve as a refuge for people actively suffering from severe domestic violence. In order to keep the victim from self-medicating, drugs and alcohol are not allowed on the premises; additional policies are in place to help survivors process and recover from the experience.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.
Seek out professional help
Pyramid is an online counseling platform that provides comprehensive, client-focused care for individuals seeking therapy.
To learn more about our services and how they can benefit you personally, send us a message or call us today at 833-525-3077.