In the last track we discussed how Josie, a 21-year-old
pregnant woman, was resistant to accept the dangers of her situation after she
heard the basic domestic violence information. This of course, as you know, may
not be unusual for a client who has recently been battered.
point of this track is not to deal with Josie's resistance, but to provide three
steps that you may use when dealing with your own mistake of arrogance. Have you
found, like I, that it is hard to avoid the mistake of arrogance when dealing
with a client like Josie? There are three main Traps of Arrogance that I find
I must work to avoid when treating battered clients. I guess we could almost call
these burn-out traps.
3 Main Traps of Arrogance
Trap 1: Imposing My Own Reality and Values
The first trap of arrogance or burn-out I try
to avoid is imposing my own reality and values upon my client. As you know,
victims of battering live in a cultural script that dictates how they are "supposed"
to extract themselves from abusive relationships. Do you have this problem, of
unwittingly imposing your values on a client by encouraging him or her to stay
away from their partner, obtain a job, and secure housing, as discussed on the
Remember Josie from the previous track? Here is a mistake
I made. By subconsciously believing leaving was the best course of action for
Josie, I made the mistake of paying little attention to how Josie defined her
reality. What were Josie's values? What did Josie want for herself and for her unborn child? In retrospect, Josie provided clues about her reality throughout
the course of our interview. Think of a battered client you are currently treating.
Is she like Josie, in that she wants the violence to end, but not her relationship
with her partner? Do you think that your own arrogance may have caused you to
ignore whether your Josie may have benefited by discovering ways that couples
can settle conflict without resorting to physical violence?
in retrospect, I do not believe that Josie ever viewed herself as a battered woman,
yet this is how I was treating her. I believe that Josie was in the "Precontemplation
Stage of Change." By this, I mean she was likely in denial and discounted
the severity of her abuse in an effort to believe the good side of Paul. Do you
agree that by not considering Josie's construct of reality and stage of change,
I had devised a contact with Josie that was actually harmful?
Trap 2: Assuming the Dominant Role
second trap of arrogance, I find, is assuming the dominant role. In my sessions
with Josie, I found that I had begun to take the dominant role by telling Josie
to do things, whether she liked it or not. For example, I suggested that Josie
move away from Paul, but she had never lived alone or had substantial employment
to support herself. I also assumed a dominant role with Josie by not allowing
her to have a voice in her goals. In retrospect, I could have asked Josie what
steps she felt she might take to relieve herself from Paul's abuse. Having done
this would have given Josie a voice in shaping her own goals and objectives.
Trap 3: Disempowering a Battered Client
In addition to the traps of Imposing my own Reality, Values, and Assuming
the Dominant Role, I feel it is also important to avoid falling into the third
trap of arrogance, disempowering a battered client. As you know, an important
word in dealing with battered women is "Empowerment." However, I felt
my work with Josie was disempowering, replicating her abusive relationship with
Paul. In my sessions with Josie, I found myself disempowering Josie in two main
1. Inequity between myself and Josie. First, there was inequity between myself and Josie. Josie
was vulnerable, and it was unlikely she would ever challenge the contract I had
created. This brings us to a paradoxical box. As you know, while wanting to facilitate
empowerment, a therapist may at the same time devise goals and objectives that
may possibly disagree with the battered woman's feelings of comfort. I often remind
myself to be aware that objectives will have to be modified based on a client's
stage of change. Realizing Josie's vulnerability could have helped in my sessions
2. Discounting Josie's feelings about Paul. I felt I had also disempowered Josie by discounting her feelings about
Paul. As you know, men who batter often discount their partner's feelings by saying
women are "crazy" or "stupid" for feeling a certain way or
for expressing a certain opinion. While I never described Josie as "stupid"
or "crazy," my behavior did convey a negative attitude about her life,
behaviors, and attitudes. I did not encourage her to talk about Paul's good side,
but instead I focused on the escalation of his violence. Do you agree that by
not encouraging Josie to talk about the good things, to a certain extent, I failed
to show Josie the maximum of compassion?
Telling Her Story
Rather than imposing my values
and walking along the fine line of arrogance, I feel the better approach for me
to have taken with Josie would have been to devise a safety plan and encourage
her to tell her story. The average battered woman leaves 7 to 8 times before permanently
leaving a relationship.
3 Ways Josie Defined Reality
In successive sessions, by creating a safety plan and
by allowing Josie to tell her story, Josie was later able to construct a new definition
of reality in three ways:
1. Josie got the message that her life
was worth something.
2. Hearing Josie's story gave me an idea of what
was important in Josie's life.
3. Josie's telling of her story allowed
Josie to look at her life and her potential barriers toward change.
this track I have discussed three Traps of Arrogance to avoid when working with
victims of domestic violence. To review, these three traps are: Imposing my own
Reality and Values, Assuming the Dominant Role, and Disempowering. Do you struggle
to avoid these traps of Arrogance when working with a battered client? If this
struggle could be at a subconscious level, would bringing it to your conscious
awareness decrease burn-out for you?
In the next track we will discuss law enforcement
issues regarding domestic violence that may facilitate therapist stress and burn-out.
We will look at two landmark cases regarding battered women's rights for protection.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
What is the paradoxical box? To select and enter your answer go to .