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New Content Added: To update the content we have added Domestic Violence information found at the end of the Table of Contents.
On this track, we will look at ways in which Group Intervention is used in altering the attitudes of clients who batter. We will also discuss three methods of Altering Attitudes. These methods are: Broadening Definitions, Learning Empathy, and Recognizing the Effects of the Media.
As you know, group sessions help a client to expand his social network. For example, Daniel, age 30, found that group members were willing to help him become non-abusive, to alter his attitudes. Daniel had been married to Sarah for five years. He was court-ordered into the anger management group after a battering incident following his son's birthday party.
Through the course of several sessions, Daniel stated, "It was my son Jake's first birthday, and Sarah had her mom and sisters over for a party when I got home from work. I went into the living room and told Sarah to fix me a sandwich. She told me she would fix it in a minute. I told her I was hungry NOW, so she would fix the sandwich NOW! I grabbed her by the arm and threw her into the kitchen. Later that night, I slapped her. Then I started hitting her harder. She was screaming for me to stop. I ended up shoving her down and grabbing her neck till she was gasping for air, just to keep her quiet. I guess the neighbors must have heard something and called the police."
Have you found, like I, that many court-ordered clients are confused as to why they are being referred to the anger management group? I often hear statements like: "I don't know why I'm here; they just told me to come," or "I really don't have any problems, but I was told I had to be here so I could get my children back." Daniel expressed his confusion when he stated, "It's not really my problem; she's the one with the anger!"
As you can see, Daniel was trying to reflect blame away from himself and onto Sarah. He stated, "I work all day and make all the money and she just stays home with our son. So it seems like the least she can do is make me dinner. But, it all happened so fast; I didn't really know what I was doing. Sarah asked for it! She wasn't listening to me. I had to make her listen somehow! Well, at least I didn't kill her!"
Before entering the legal system, Daniel did not recognize his behavior as abusive. Thus, he saw no reason to change. I found that three methods of Altering Attitudes were helpful with Daniel. As I discuss these methods, think about how you might use them with your Daniel.
3 Methods for Altering Group Attitudes
To help personalize the definition of abuse, I asked members of the group to make a list of behaviors they considered abusive. I wrote their answers on a flip chart. Answers ranged from pushing to slapping to choking. After working on this list, it became more clear to Daniel that abuse has a much broader definition than the one he had learned by observing his father's pushing and slapping of his mother. Thus, to Daniel, abuse was a normal way of communicating.
At first, he was only able to identify the consequences or negative aspects that affected him. These consequences included the arrest, court involvement, and the very real possibility that Sarah might leave him and take his son with her.
I wanted to increase Daniel's awareness of what he might consider the pay-offs of abuse. When I asked Daniel, "What do you think were the pay-offs of your actions?" he drew a blank. I urged Daniel to recall the point when he chose to use violence against Sarah. In addition to identifying the initial point of violence, Daniel needed to identify just why he felt violence was necessary at that moment. I asked Daniel what went through his mind when he started hitting Sarah.
Daniel stated, "It was pretty soon after Jake was born and I felt
like Sarah was being lazy. She was using the fact that she'd just had a baby to
boss me around and make me responsible for Jake." Daniel said, "She
was nagging me and that drives me up the wall! I guess I thought I had to shut
her up. I threw her across the floor and kept punching her in the head. She didn't
say another word the rest of the night." I asked him if he felt that getting
her to shut up was the benefit and he said, "Yeah, she stopped nagging me
didn't she? I got my way, and afterwards I didn't feel so tense. Plus, we're always
really happy for a while after we make up. "
Recognizing the Effects of the Media
Earnest, age 57,
made a list containing names of tough guys like Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and
even "The Undertaker," a wrestler he had seen on TV. When I asked Earnest
why he considered these men role models he said, "They're strong. They know
what they want, and they know how to get it. They are real men who don't take
any crap from anybody, especially their women."
After the exercise, Earnest was beginning to understand that the "tough guy" image he tried to follow had nothing to do with creating a successful relationship. As you may know, the concept of a working successful relationship was one that hadn't occurred to Earnest.
For Daniel, whom we discussed earlier, his marriage was all about dominance and forcing his will onto Sarah. Daniel stated, "To me to be top dog is what it's all about. I can't let her push me around. If I let her do that, what kind of man would I be? God made man first, which means men are supposed to rule women. A wife is supposed to do what her husband tells her to. And damn it, she better." I suggested to Daniel that there were other media examples of men who did not need to dominate women in order to show their strength.
this track, we talked about three methods of Altering Attitudes. Those methods
were: Broadening Definitions, Learning Empathy, and Recognizing the Effects
of the Media. In the next track, we will discuss the advantages of working
as a male-female therapist team.
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