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"You Made Me Hit You!" Interventions with Male Batterers
Male Batterers continuing education social worker CEUs

Section 9
Marital Violence Linked to Change

CEU Question 9 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Domestic Violence
Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

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In the last track, we reviewed how the Invisible Dragon of shame can result in physical abuse. Do you agree that shame and control often go hand-in-hand with many of your clients? As you will see in the case of Duane, physical abuse started with control.

Duane, a 45-year-old research scientist, came into my anger management program voluntarily, unlike many of my clients. While he did have a police record citing four incidents of domestic disturbances, he was not court-ordered into the group. Duane stated, "Calling for information about anger management was the hardest thing I have ever done. I even drove past your building a few times before I finally pulled in." Think of a client you are currently treating and his reluctance to change. Do you agree that a core issue is addiction to control?

Four Checkpoints for Change
The power that the batterer gains over his victim has an addictive quality and is almost impossible for him to give up. With Duane I used the four Checkpoints for Change that are helpful in evaluating his ability to give up control. As you listen to these four checkpoints, consider your Duane and if any of these checkpoints can be used to apply to your client. The checkpoints are: Change is possible, motivation to change, reason to change, creating a plan to change.

Compared with court-ordered clients, Duane more easily completed the first and second checkpoints: recognizing that change is possible and finding motivation to change. As you know, recognizing the possibility of change as well as forming a motivation to change are necessary in order for any further steps to be taken. With a court-ordered client, the recognition that change is possible and motivation to change has, of course, the legal system as a leverage point.

The third item in the assessment regarding change is having clients verbalize a reason to change. Duane's reason to change, as with many batterers, was fear of jail time and loss of his relationship with his wife Julie. However, in Duane's case, he also wanted to avoid the embarrassment he felt when greeting his neighbors who knew the police had been to his house the night before. Also, Duane stated, "Damn it to Hell! What if news got back to the Research Institute about this? They'd think I was some kind of a wacko, and I'd lose all credibility with my team."

The fourth checkpoint for change, then, was for Duane to come up with a plan of exactly what to change. This plan for change can be divided into two categories: internal cognitive process and external behavior.

2 Types of Change

1. Cognitive. As you know, Cognitive coping strategies focus on internal reasoning and dealing with the violence at a more personal level. Duane was willing to describe to me the process he went through in gathering information and deciding if group therapy was the answer for him. "I'm a scientist, so careful research is second-nature to me. But that didn't make it any easier. I had to fight the demons within myself to finally decide on the path I knew I must take."

2. Behavioral. The Behavioral coping strategies focus on visible ways of dealing with violence. The batterer may become active in the community or in an Anger Management group. Duane, for instance, vowed verbally to "do whatever is necessary" to stay involved with the group and end his abuse. Duane eventually found that when he was expected to report on his progress in our group meetings, he became more externally motivated, since he felt a pressure to keep up with other group members.

"Coping with Coping" Four-Column Technique
I found the "Coping with Coping" Four-Column Technique was very useful in helping Duane to discover how he coped with his violence. Here's how the "Coping with Coping" four-column technique worked:
Column 1. First, I asked Duane and the other members of the group to make four columns labeled Actions, Thoughts, Positives, and Negatives.
Column 2. Under the Actions and Thoughts columns, I asked Duane and the group to list the different types of behavioral and mental strategies that they felt they had used in their attempts to fight their addictions to control.
Column 3. Under the Positive and Negative columns, I asked the group to list the positive and negative effects of each strategy.
Column 4. Then, at our next session, I discussed the coping strategies of the clients and helped them to understand the effects of the actions and thoughts they had recorded.

For example, Duane wrote in his Actions column that he began taking on more responsibilities at work. During our session, I found that Duane had volunteered to lead a research team for the first time, rather than being a team member like usual. In his chart, Duane noted that "getting more energy out by working harder" was a positive result of his action. His frustration with feeling unimportant at work had often led to his physical violence toward Julie.

I pointed out to Duane that his being a team leader was also positive because it was an appropriate outlet for his desire to control. Duane began to understand that he could feel a sense of control over his life without attempting to gain control over Julie with his abusive behaviors. Would the use of this Coping with Coping" Four-Column Technique be of assistance with your Anger Management Group?

In this track, I discussed checkpoints for change and a Coping with Coping" Four-Column Technique.

On the next track, we'll take a look at goal-setting.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Katz, L. F., Gurtovenko, K., Maliken, A., Stettler, N., Kawamura, J., & Fladeboe, K. (2020). An emotion coaching parenting intervention for families exposed to intimate partner violence. Developmental Psychology, 56(3), 638–651.

McCormack, L., Griffiths, A. L., & Valentine, M. (2020). Family violence, trauma, and positive change research output over time: A bibliometric analysis. Traumatology. Advance online publication. 

Lila, M., Gracia, E., & Catalá-Miñana, A. (2018). Individualized motivational plans in batterer intervention programs: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 86(4), 309–320.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 9
What are four checkpoints to look for when assessing your batterer's potential to let go of his control? To select and enter your answer go to CE Test.

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