the previous track we talked about 5 urban legends or myths you might consider
reviewing with your client concerning their beliefs about abuse.
In this track... we will explore reframing these beliefs; the use of the three concepts of
recognize and remember, RET, and BAD Questions.
How invested is your client in
viewing a situation from the point of view of myths created by their "Great
Catch?" We will look at how the power invested in the "Great Catch"
enables him to "Reconstruct Reality," which erodes your client's Self-Image through Blame.
a session, have you found the introduction of the topic of "the control a
partner exhibits over another" can be a difficult one to discuss? During
these sessions I have found the receiver of the abuse realizes the negative impact
that their Great Catch relationship is having on them.
you know, many clients blame themselves for their situation. They buy into their
partner's script, that her defects are the root of all evil and the cause of his
or "their problems a couple." What makes your abused client stay in a relationship that
is controlling and abusive? What role does blame play in whether or not she stays?
What do you think?
Eroding of Self-Image
you already know, the eroding of self-image is a primary factor in the creation
and perpetuating of an abusive relationship. This destruction is achieved mostly
through blaming the individual being abused. This blaming, in turn, creates a
chain reaction, in which she feels responsible for the abuse. A chain
reaction occurs when she feels responsibility for the abuse. This feeling of
responsibility for the abuse makes her feel compelled to stay in the relationship.
Here's an example of this blaming chain reaction which goes from feeling responsible
to resulting in feeling compelled to stay. Rhonda, a 41-year-old schoolteacher
with 2 children, expressed that in her 20 years of marriage, Jeffrey often made
her feel like she was a bad wife who couldn't do anything for herself.
burst into tears after two sessions, "Jeffrey knows how to really push my
buttons, in a big way. He always makes me feel at fault for all of our problems!
Even if I did everything perfectly, he still manages to find something wrong.
He yells at me and says 'If you didn't make such crappy food I would feel motivated
to go to work more.' But even if I make the best meal, he'll turn around and then
accuse me of making meals that are too good so that he gains weight and feels
too lazy to go to work. I feel like a complete failure. I hate myself."
spite of Jeffery's blaming behavior, Rhonda felt she had the "Great Catch"
which was evident as she described how things were in the beginning of her marriage
by saying, "In the first couple years of our marriage before our first child,
I felt fortunate to have Jeffrey. Even the wedding photographer described him
as looking like a model in a Penny's catalog. My brother described Jeffrey as
the best I could do
Jeffery's a really great guy."
Reconstructing the Reality
Jeffrey is reconstructing the reality of his not going to work and making Rhonda
his scapegoat. Thus, tool #1 of the abuser is reconstructing reality
Jeffery's blaming is eroding Rhonda's self-esteem.
would be your next step with Rhonda in this session? Here's what I did. I decided
to Reconstruct the Reality of Rhonda's self blame based upon her narrative and
explore the meaning that it held for her.
R's: Recognize and Remember
I Reconstructed the Reality of Rhonda's
self blame by using a 2 R method of questioning, which encouraged her ability to
construct her truth independent of Jeffrey's version of the truth.
2 R's are recognize and remember. Rhonda began to first recognize and then remember
the power that she had before she met Jeffery. Do you need to point out the 2
R's of recognize and remember that occurred at the beginning of your clients'
transformation into being desperate dependent
have found, by helping the client to discover a new narrative as they recognize
and remember the abuse, it often introduces her to opportunities for making new
choices. Here's how I helped Rhonda develop this new narrative using the 2 R's
of recognize and remember. The purpose was to reverse the erosion of her self-esteem
caused by Jeffrey's reconstruction of reality.
I stated to Rhonda, "Have you ever thought about your relationship with Jeffrey
from the point of view of who's in control? It sounds like Jeffrey constructs
the story, or his version of reality was pretty much have accepted by you. Is
that right?" After Rhonda remembered specific situations this seemed to fit.
I could see she was beginning to emotionally buy-into, or connect with and recognize
this as a line of reasoning that seemed to fit and be true for her. Ask yourself
are the 2 R's of recognize and remember a concept I might introduce into my next
training session with my Rhonda?
two to reframe client beliefs, in addition to the two R's remember and recognize,
I find borrowing from Albert Ellis' Rational-Emotive Therapy, RET,
approach here beneficial. I encouraged Rhonda, as I had Ellis' RET basics in mind,
to make a distinction between what is an objective fact versus what was her subjective
interpretation of her and Jeffrey's behavior. I stated in so many words, "It
sounds like you and Jeffrey have created an environment where Jeffrey's negative
behavior is either justified or it is tolerated by you. By justifying and tolerating,
this allows your relationship to continue as it has."
tricky part here, for me is, while saying this to Rhonda, in my RET work with
her I felt I needed to steer her away from self-blame, but in addition steer her
away from making Jeffrey out to be the total scapegoat.
The Triangular Tightrope
the therapeutic triangular tightrope I felt I needed to walk in distinguishing
objective fact from subjective interpretations, was this:
#1 Helping Rhonda to become aware that by justifying and tolerating Jeffrey's
behavior she was perpetuating the problem.
#2 in the triangle was to, at the same time, steer her away from self blame,
which she was an expert at. Sound familiar with some your clients?
#3 in the triangle, I had to walk, therapeutically was to steer her away from externalizing the problem and making Jeffrey the total bad guy and scapegoat.
In addition to the 2R's of remember and recognize and
Ellis' RET concepts of objective fact versus subjective interpretations was the
use of the B-A-D questions reframing Rhonda's beliefs.
used the following three questions, over the period of several sessions, to help
Rhonda walk this three sided triangular therapeutic tightrope BAD stands for the
key words bear, acceptable, and deserve.
The B stands for bear. I asked Rhonda, "Do you think that you can
bear this type of treatment for the rest of your life?"
The A stands for acceptable. I asked Rhonda, "You stated earlier,
Jeffery is not behaving the way that a man in love with you and committed to his wife behaves. Is that acceptable to you?"
The D stands for deserve. I then stated, "You stated there have been
good times between the two of you, but that's not what I'm hearing about. You
sound unhappy. Do you think you deserve happiness?"
gave Rhonda the opportunity to come to her own conclusions as each BAD question
was explored over a series of sessions.
I phrased these questions so that the focus was not on Jeffrey's behavior but
rather on Rhonda's responses, and on Rhonda's choices that she made based on her
perception of the reality of the situation. Rhonda realized that she was spending
more energy than she wanted to be anticipating Jeffrey's needs. She began speaking
up to establish boundaries regarding his angry outburst. Rhonda finally insisted
firmly that Jeffery get help.
explained at the end of one of our final sessions, "
my feelings about myself like my successes. Maybe it's just a small thing, but
I now feel proud to be a teacher, and see that feeling lazy because I don't take
a second job is not how I feel anymore. This was Jeffery's version of the truth.
I feel the cure for my horrible feeling of powerlessness is to be aware of my
power in my relationship with Jeffrey."
this track... we explored reframing you clients beliefs by the three interventions
of the 2 R's of recognize and remember; RET objective facts versus subjective
interpretations, and B-A-D Questions
order to facilitate your client's awareness of the power he or she has lost or
holds in a relationship, in the next two tracks we will talk about how to increase
your client's awareness of rationalizations they have for staying in their relationship.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Iverson, K. M., Gradus, J. L., Resick, P. A., Suvak, M. K., Smith, K. F., & Monson, C. M. (2011). Cognitive–behavioral therapy for PTSD and depression symptoms reduces risk for future intimate partner violence among interpersonal trauma survivors. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79(2), 193–202.
Lambert, J. E., Benight, C. C., Wong, T., & Johnson, L. E. (2013). Cognitive bias in the interpretation of physiological sensations, coping self-efficacy, and psychological distress after intimate partner violence. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 5(5), 494–500.
Walling, S. M., Suvak, M. K., Howard, J. M., Taft, C. T., & Murphy, C. M. (2012).
Race/ethnicity as a predictor of change in working alliance during cognitive behavioral therapy for intimate partner violence perpetrators. Psychotherapy, 49
To reconstruct the reality of self-blame experienced by your client,
what are the key words to use to recall the B-A-D questions in a session with
a client? To select and enter your answer go to .