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The Role of Self-Esteem and Well-Being
Life Traps continuing education psychology CEUs

Section 11
Intimate Partner Verbal Aggression

CEU Question 11 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Couples
Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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In the last track, we talked about physical abuse and the aftermath the abuse had on Marian, but as you know, not all victims of abuse have been physically battered.

In this track, let’s take a look at verbal abuse and the effects it has on battered women. Have you found, like I have, that verbal and mental abuse is damaging in an equal but different way than physical abuse? Have you also found that clients who feel they’re unlovable or not worthy of love attract, if not physically abusive relationships, verbally abusive relationships?

Sandy, a 31 year old physical therapist, has been verbally abused by her husband, James, for many years. When she came into my office, she said, “It started out innocently enough. He told me I had beautiful eyes and asked why I didn’t wear a little eye shadow. But then it got worse. He would yell at me for everything, call me names, and make false accusations. He even contradicted himself, calling me ‘bossy’ in one sentence and ‘a wimp' in the next. I was so wound up I couldn't sleep.”

2 Signifiers of Verbal Abuse
I explained to Sandy that she may be experiencing the two major symptoms of verbal abuse or signifiers:

#1. Loss of Autonomy
I have found that the first symptom of Loss of Autonomy usually begins very slowly, just as the verbal abuse may begin slowly. Gradually, Sandy lost control over her own emotions. If James was happy she was happy. But, if James was upset, she would feel traumatized and like a failure. Sandy was totally unaware that she had lost her emotional autonomy. By the time she came into my office, she was unable to fix meals without being in tears due to her feelings of paranoia about provoking one of James's "temper-tantrums," as she put it.

#2. Disintegration of Self-Image
I explained to Sandy, she may be experiencing a second symptom of verbal abuse, which occurs when her self-image is so badly damaged that her daily life was becoming unbearable. Since Sandy was a physical therapist and used to thinking of behaviors in cause and effect patterns, I presented these ideas to Sandy in the form of an equation. Here is the equation for Sandy: Feeling "I'm Unlovable" equals, or results in, a verbally abusive relationship. This verbally abusive relationship equals, or results in, a loss of her emotional autonomy in addition to a disintegration of her self-image.

Take a moment to reflect on your "Sandy" client who is in a verbally abusive relationship. In your next session, would it be beneficial to discuss possible Loss of Emotional Autonomy and possible Disintegration of Self-Image which signify verbal abuse?

Questions to Identify Verbal Abuse
Here are some questions I asked Sandy:
-- Do you replay fights in your mind?
-- When you are preparing a meal, even though James is not there, do you replay or imagine his voice criticizing you?

I have found verbally abused women like Sandy, who feel they are unlovable or do not deserve love may answer "no" to these questions initially. However, when I explained to Sandy the concept of self-talk and asked her to increase her awareness of her thought process, she became aware of how James's verbal abuse affected her emotional autonomy and a disintegration of her self-image.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Derrick, J. L., Testa, M., & Leonard, K. E. (2014). Daily reports of intimate partner verbal aggression by self and partner: Short-term consequences and implications for measurement. Psychology of Violence, 4(4), 416–431. 

Hammett, J. F., Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (2020). When does verbal aggression in relationships covary with physical violence? Psychology of Violence. Advance online publication.

Karni-Vizer, N., & Salzer, M. S. (2016). Verbal violence experiences of adults with serious mental illnesses. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 39(4), 299–304. 

Schmid, P. C. (2018). Less power, greater conflict: Low power increases the experience of conflict in multiple goal settings. Social Psychology, 49(1), 47–62.

van den Brink, F., Vollmann, M., & van Weelie, S. (2020). Relationships between transgender congruence, gender identity rumination, and self-esteem in transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 7(2), 230–235.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 11
What are two possible results or signifiers of a verbally abusive relationship? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

This CD entitled "I'm Unlovable" Changing your Client's Lifetraps has covered Internal vs. External Controls, Four Step Depersonalization, Deliberately Opposing and RET, Three-Tiered Affirmations, Power-Imbalance Questions, Closure Metaphors, Four R's of Regaining Self-Esteem, Emotional Roller Coasters, "Taking Back" Lost Needs, and Two Verbal Abuse Signifiers.

We appreciate that you’ve chosen the Healthcare Training Institute as a means for receiving your continuing education credit. I hope you have found the information to be both practical and beneficial. I wish you the best of luck in your practice. Thank you.

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