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On the last track, we talked about three stages of abuse.
Now let's talk about increasing the batterer's awareness of his abuse. As you know, many batterers report feelings of sudden rage. I find that increasing my clients' awareness of their "Red Flags" to violence can help to stop the chain of events that lead to their abuse. I introduced this discussion to the group by pointing out how a driver's awareness of a road construction crew's red flag helps to stop traffic.
As you know, the group has to understand the cycle of violence and how it progresses from the build-up of tension, to the violent action, and finally into the "honeymoon" phase. What I wanted to impress upon Daniel, who was discussed on a previous track, is that the cycle of violence does not remain constant, but escalates into ever-raising tension and fewer "Honeymoon" phases. In order for Daniel to break his cycle he had to start identifying cues. Ask yourself, what cues does the "Daniel" you are currently treating need to identify regarding his physical violence?
3 Types of Red Flags
Red Flag #1 - Situational Cues
Think for a moment about your physically abusive client. Do you feel it would be beneficial to discuss the time of day or other recurring circumstances that precede their physical violence? For example, for Tony, a construction worker in the group, arguments took place every other Friday. As you might guess, every other Friday was payday and Tony stopped off for a couple drinks prior to coming home from work. So, ask yourself, are there situational cues of which your client needs to increase his awareness in order to prevent another battering incident?
Red Flag #2 - Emotional Cues
As you know, physical feelings are closely tied to emotional feelings and can also act as red flags regarding the emotions that lead to abuse. Here's an example of Daniel's description of his emotional red flag. He stated, "When I get angry, my heart starts pounding, my stomach tenses up, and my face turns red." Think of a physically abusive client you are currently treating. Would a discussion of emotional red flags be beneficial in your next session?
Red Flag #3 - Cognitive Cues
Weekly Red Flag Log
For Daniel, his log described times during the week when he felt like he might abuse Sarah. When he avoided abusive behavior, I asked him to write about the alternative behaviors he employed. For Daniel, the answer was as simple as walking out of the room and focusing his attention on something else like the television so that Sarah wasn't in his line of sight.
This prevented Daniel from being angered by the sight of Sarah after she said something that Daniel found irritating. I have found, as I'm sure you have, that sometimes when clients complete a Weekly Log they tend to take more responsibility for their actions and become better able to use alternative behaviors.
In addition to reducing his violent behavior, Daniel was made more aware of what caused him to become violent. Daniel was also able to start to accept that it was not Sarah's fault that he punched her in the head. As you know, acceptance and accountability are key.
Counselor Self Inventory
In Violence in Intimate Relationships, Munroe addressed violent outbursts of batterers in a study of the typology of male batterers. Munroe found that both the dysphoric and the generally violent/antisocial groups had the highest scores on the measures of borderline personality and traumatic stress. Her study drew two conclusions.
The first conclusion that Munroe made was that the batterer's impulsivity is reflected in measures of both antisocial and borderline personality. So generally violent/antisocial men may also report impulsive, borderline type behaviors. The second conclusion Munroe's study made was connecting PTSD with violent behavior. Munroe stated, "given the high levels of violence experienced, both in childhood and as adults, by the generally PTSD, it is not surprising that they report symptoms of PTSD."
The next track will deal with Expanding Choice Points once a client begins to recognize these three Red Flags.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
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