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Treating Relationship Power and Aggression
The previous track dealt with a three-tiered method of constructing affirmations from a content-based impersonal affirmation, to a content-based personal affirmation statement, and finally constructing a visualization with Rhonda. I would like once again bring up the concept of B-A-D questions discussed on track 9 to show you how I connected this into resistance for Rhonda.
you found, like I, that when a client is in the midst of an abusive relationship,
she is trying to figure out what's best for herself and her children? Rhonda was
always taking stock and re-evaluating her options. If you recall, Rhonda, the 41
year-old school teacher, had two children. Rhonda had been married for twenty
years to Jeffrey.
Demoting the 'Great Catch'
Here's an example of how this resistance and repositioning evolved in one session following Rhonda's use of the BAD questions and the affirmations. She triumphantly stated as she took her usual seat in my office, "I refused to do Jeffrey's laundry. I am sick of his criticism. He kept telling me that I was doing it wrong, so I told him that if I couldn't do it right he should take his dirty shorts somewhere else and get it done professionally." This was the method Rhonda chose to show resistance to Jeffrey's extreme verbal abuse. Obviously, when your client who is in an abusive relationship begins to see a therapist, she has already taken steps to resist her partner's control.
This resistance to Jeffrey's control helped Rhonda start to regain her strength in the relationship. She also regained a certain level of pride, rather than feeling like, as she stated, "the door mat." By not doing Jeffrey's laundry, she clearly was challenging or resisting the control he had in the relationship. But, in looking at the bigger picture, this action challenged the balance of power in their relationship.
Following Rhonda's big announcement that she was not doing Jeffrey's laundry, what would have been your next step in her session? Here's what I stated in a supportive manner, "Some actions are more effective than others, and sometimes they may even be counter-productive. But, you never know what will happen until you try. I admire your courage. How is it going now? How do you feel now about it? How is Jeffrey reacting?"
Here's a basic that bears repeating. When a woman in an abusive relationship comes to me, I recommend that she finds a support network, which will be stressed through the following tracks. Ask yourself, when your client is resisting control and repositioning the balance of power in the relationship, do you need to assist her in assessing her sources of support? This is a basic I can easily overlook when caught up in the drama of my client's current trauma.
In my mind it took a lot of courage on Rhonda's part to refuse to do Jeffrey's laundry. I feel she was able to gather the courage to do this, because we had talked about her creation of a support network.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Rhatigan, D. L., Shorey, R. C., & Nathanson, A. M. (2011). The impact of posttraumatic symptoms on women's commitment to a hypothetical violent relationship: A path analytic test of posttraumatic stress, depression, shame, and self-efficacy on investment model factors. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 3(2), 181–191.
Sullivan, T. P., McPartland, T., Price, C., Cruza-Guet, M. C., & Swan, S. C. (2013). Relationship self-efficacy protects against mental health problems among women in bidirectionally aggressive intimate relationships with men. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 60(4), 641–647.
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