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Therapist Self-Care Compassion Fatigue & Secondary Traumatic Stress
Domestic Violence continuing education addiction counselor CEUs

Section 5
Therapist Mistakes

CEU Question 5 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Domestic Violence
Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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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.

However, the 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 previous track?

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?

Moreover, 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
The 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 ways:

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 with Josie.

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.

In 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.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Bocian, B. (2020). Fear, self-support, and “good introjects”. The Humanistic Psychologist, 48(4), 363–368.

Brown, T. J. (2021). Ethics, burnout, and reported life and job attitudes among board-certified behavior analysts. Behavior Analysis: Research and Practice.

Gilhooley, D. (2011). Mistakes. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 28(2), 311–333.

Grant, J., Schofield, M. J., & Crawford, S. (2012). Managing difficulties in supervision: Supervisors' perspectives. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59(4), 528–541. 

Kim, J. J., Brookman-Frazee, L., Gellatly, R., Stadnick, N., Barnett, M. L., & Lau, A. S. (2018). Predictors of burnout among community therapists in the sustainment phase of a system-driven implementation of multiple evidence-based practices in children’s mental health. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 49(2), 132–141.

Marmarosh, C. L. (2016). Can we collaborate? Mistakes made when group and individual therapists ignore multiple realities. Psychotherapy, 53(3), 320–324.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 5
What is the paradoxical box? To select and enter your answer go to CE Test.

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