Anger, and the inability to manage it well, does not cause relationship violence. Violence is a choice. A battering intervention group is the most effective intervention for those who are physically, emotionally, and/or sexually abusive to their partners. Group intervention has the potential to hold accountable those who choose to use violence, coercive control, and threats to abuse members of their family. Group dynamics create mechanisms for participants to confront each other on their use of denial and blaming and discrediting others, as well as other controlling dynamics. Groups should be at least 26-52 weeks. For many participants of battering intervention programs it can take weeks or months to interrupt the layers of denial. Until that happens, change is not likely. 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).
MSU Safe Place does not provide services to those who are the predominant aggressor in relationships where intimate partner violence is occurring. To locate a battering intervention program (BIP) in Michigan that is certified by BIPSCC and meets Michigan State standards, go to this link: https://www.biscmi.org/bipscc-approved-programs.
Individual counseling is not recommended for those who are abusive to their partner in lieu of battering intervention. Individual counseling can occur simultaneously to the abusive partner attending a battering group, or can occur after the abuser has completed at least 36 to 52 weeks of battering intervention services. The focus of issues discussed in individual counseling is based on what clients present. Because those who batter typically deny they are abusive, and blame their partners for problems in their life, interrupting the violence, and holding the abusive partner accountable, is not likely to happen with this kind of therapy. In individual counseling it can be difficult for counselors working with abusers to confront them; if done too forcefully the client will most likely terminate counseling and find someone else who agrees with their viewpoint while not holding them accountable.
Couples, or Marital, Counseling
Couples, or marital, counseling is not advisable when intimate partner violence is occurring because it is dangerous to the victimized party. Even when counselors who are educated about domestic violence facilitate sessions, couples counseling implies equal responsibility for relationship problems. Once a person has made the choice to use emotional, physical, and/or sexual violence, equal culpability is not a factor. The responsibility falls on only one person: the abusive party. Batterers often use third parties to abuse their victims, and to validate their perceptions and justify their abuse. Therapists often inadvertently take part in this type of collusion and domestic violence by proxy, without recognizing the harm they are causing to the victimized partner. The counseling sessions then become an arena for further perpetration of the relationship violence. The choices survivors face in these counseling sessions favor their abusers; survivors may either lie or minimize the abuse experienced in order to appease their abuser and prevent betraying them, or they tell the truth and face retaliation at a later time. Before marital counseling is considered, we advise that the abusive partner complete a full cycle of a battering intervention group. After that, if the abusive party accepts responsibility and is willing to treat their partner with respect, couples counseling may be considered if both parties want that.
Perpetrators of relationship violence can turn on the charm and stop their abusive behaviors whenever they have something to gain for it or wish to present a ruse to others, such as when they in court, in the presence of law enforcement or the general public, or if they are trying to convince a victimized partner to give them another chance. This kind of change is short term. Real change, which means abuse will no longer occur, is not likely until the one who is abusive takes responsibility for their behavior, is able to disclose all incidences or ways they have been abusive, changes their attitude toward their partner, accepts consequences due to their actions, makes amends to those they have harmed, exhibits respectful behaviors and attitudes toward their victim, and demonstrates empathy. Because domestic violence is not a mental health issue, we believe it is not appropriate for a battering intervention group to accept insurance payments. Paying the cost of group sessions is another means for a person who is abusive to accept responsibility and work toward real change.
There are two battering intervention programs in the Lansing area that meet the standards set forth by the Battering Intervention Services Coalition of Michigan:
Prevention and Training Services (PATS) – (517) 323-8149
Cognitive Consultants – (517) 322-3050
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:
End Violent Encounters in Lansing – (517) 372-5572
MSU Safe Place on Michigan State University's campus – (517) 355-1100
Women’s Center of Greater Lansing – (517) 372-9163