Lack of anger management does not cause relationship violence. Violence is a choice. A battering intervention group is the most effective resource for the person who has been physically, emotionally, and/or sexually abusive to his or her partner. Group intervention has the potential to hold those who use violence and anger the most accountable for many reasons. The group dynamic creates a mechanism for those who batter to confront each other on their use of denial and blaming others, as well as other controlling dynamics. Groups should be at least 26 weeks and some studies show that battering groups do not even begin to break through the layers of denial for many participants until 36 weeks. The focus of these groups should be on power and control (not anger management, since out-of-control anger is not the issue with domestic violence) and on accountability (taking responsibility for one’s behavior).
Individual counseling is not recommended in lieu of battering intervention. It can be done simultaneously or after the abuser has gone through at least 36 to 52 weeks of battering intervention services. The focus of issues discussed in individual counseling is based on what the client presents. Those who batter will typically present information to the counselor that blames the victim and does not accurately portray their violence. If individual counseling is used alone it is difficult for the counselor to confront violent clients; if done too forcefully the client will most likely terminate counseling and find someone else who will meet their court mandated requirement but not hold them accountable for their violence. In a battering intervention group this would not be as big of a factor.
Couples, or Marital, Counseling
Couples, or marital, counseling is not advisable because it is dangerous to the one who has been victimized. Even when counselors who are educated about domestic violence facilitate sessions, couples counseling implies equal responsibility for the problem. Once a person has made the choice to use emotional, physical, and/or sexual violence, equality is not in place. In actuality the responsibility falls on only one person: the one who is abusive. The counseling session often becomes one more arena for the perpetrator to further abuse his or her partner. The choice of the one victimized is to either lie or minimize the abuse experienced, or to tell the truth and pay later. Before marital counseling is considered, we advise that the abusive member complete a full cycle of a battering intervention group. After that, couples counseling may be considered if both parties want that.
Until the one who is abusive takes responsibility for his or her behavior, demonstrates attempts to change and attends a group, it is unlikely that the person’s behavior will change for the long term. There is a charge for battering intervention groups, which is part of taking responsibility for one’s actions. It is not appropriate for a battering intervention group to accept insurance payments, as battering is not a mental illness. There are two battering intervention programs in the Lansing area that meet the standards set forth by the Battering Intervention Services Coalition of Michigan:
Court-mandated counseling for those victimized by abuse is not encouraged because survivors are not at fault for the abuse. However, because healing needs and safety issues are a concern, individual or group support is available for free in the greater Lansing area: