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Treating Relationship Power and Aggression
On this track... we will discuss extremely controlling behavior. We will also assess the effect controlling behavior has on
a recipient in two areas. These two areas are: Loss of Power, and Disintegration of
to statistical information gathered by the battered women's National Crisis Centers
Organization, Within a single year, 7% of American women, or 3.9 million,
who are married or living with someone as a couple were physically abused. That's
take a look at extremely controlling behavior and assess the effect it has on
the recipients in two areas. There is a saying that goes, Absolute power
Loss of Power
What form has this loss-of-power taken for a current client you are treating? Loss of decision making regarding: Finances? Pregnancy? Even how much and what food they eat? Yes, how much food she eats.
Sandra, a 31 year-old divorced... physical therapist, has two girls ages 9 and 10. James moved in with her over a year ago. When Sandra came into my office, she stated, James seemed like such a godsend when he first moved in. He had a steady job and paid most of the rent. But, a few weeks after moving in, he started telling me I was a bad mother, and a failure at caring for my two girls. He then started disciplining my girls for not studying hard enough or for making too much noise. He would send them to their room without supper or not allow them to watch TV. James calls me "a wimp." Im so nervous that I have to take sleeping pills, just so I can sleep every night
Sandra then continued to describe how James serves-up her and her daughters supper and insists that they eat all they were served. Sandra stated, I hate brussel sprouts. James would give me and my girls practically a whole plate full! I know this sounds like a little thing, but its humiliating to be treated like a child in front of my girls. Clearly, Sandras feeling that she has gotten the Great Catch via someone who paid her rent has found that the price was her loss of power. So with your client, who is in an abusive-controlling relationship, make this first assessment in your mind. In what areas has your client lost her power?
Disintegration of Self-image
For example, lets say your self-image is that youre a very-good therapist. However, in your annual written evaluation the board governing your agency rates you below average. Does your self-image as a therapist disintegrate? Probably, or maybe not. However, what if you got fired and sought several positions only to be fired because of poor ratings, would your self-image as therapist disintegrate? I can only speak for myself, but these circumstances clearly would have a major impact on me.
As you know, for clients like Sandra who feel she has hooked the Great Catch, this same type of Disintegration of Self-image occurs as continual evaluations of below average are provided by her significant other, James. James, the Great Catch, disintegrated Sandras self-image by stating for example, She was incompetent to discipline her girls, prepare adequate meals, and even incompetent to judge how much food she and her girls should eat. Her self image became one of total negative energy, self-hate, and loathing.
As you can imagine, Sandra doubted her ability as a housekeeper, cook, and as a lover. Sandra, like other women in abusive-controlling relationships, tended to be a traditionalist in her views of her relationship. The problem is, this buys right in to disintegration of self-image as these traditional homemaking areas are negatively evaluated by their Great Catch. Think back to the clients you are currently treating with relationship issues. Is this traditional homemaker view the basis of their self-esteem? How much value does their significant other place on your clients activities outside the home? I found with Sandra, activities she did outside of the home she viewed as unimportant when it came to evaluating her self worth, unless the activity outside the home was recognized as being important by James.
Now that you have assessed the two basics of loss of power and disintegration of self-image for your client, in the next track we will discuss two labeling tactics you might consider using to increase your client's awareness.
- Burke, S. E., Wang, K., & Dovidio, J. F. (Jun 2014) Witnessing Disclosure of Depression: Gender and Attachment Avoidance Moderate Interpersonal Evaluations. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 33(6), 536-559.
- Meza-de-Luna, M. E.; Romero-Zepeda, H. (2013) Trames: Areas of Conflict in the Intimate Couple. A Journal of the Humanities & Social Sciences, 17(1), 87-100. 14p. 1 Diagram. DOI: 10.3176/tr.2013.1.04.
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