Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Anger Mgmt. vs Partner Abuse Intervention

One interesting workshop discussion that sticks out for me was the distinction between the person whose anger results in harm to the family vs. the domestic abuser who may not display much anger at all. This grew out of an example given by one workshop participant, in which a man would smash dishes when he was angry. Once he realized that this caused his wife to fear him, he quickly stopped smashing things. I believe the person who shared this story said this man was not really an abuser, because he was able to feel empathy and stop his violent behavior after seeing how it affected his wife.

While that is a debatable question, the story highlights an important point in understanding many domestic abusers. As Lundy Bancroft (in ‘Why Does He Do That’, 2002) puts it, the domestic abuser "isn’t abusive because he’s angry, he’s angry because he’s abusive.” By contrast, the man in the story above IS abusive because he is angry. Let me explain how I understand this statement. At the core of the domestically abusive man is a sense of entitlement and self-centeredness, not an inability to control his anger. Often times, abusive men can demonstrate immense control over their anger. For instance, when confronted by the boss at work they may not react violently at all. For the abuser, anger often only comes into play when his sense of entitlement has been threatened and his more covert tactics to regain power/control are not working. His anger is simply another tool he uses with precision to exert control.

To paraphrase Bancroft from the same book, an abuser doesn’t have a problem with his own anger, he has a problem with his partner’s anger. This explains why so many abusers present for services complaining about how angry/crazy their partners are. This also explains how an anger management focus can inadvertently place blame on a victim, identifying her as the one who can’t control her anger. An abuser will often talk at length, exaggerating how angry his partner is. What he really means is that her anger (any anger on her part) gets in the way of his perfect world and must not be tolerated.

For the man in the above story, however, anger seems to be central. In fact, he may not have any issues with entitlement or male privilege at all. If that is so, perhaps he has no intention of controlling his partner or others. While his behavior, by its very nature is threatening and abusive, this is fairly different than the control-based abuser. Domestic abusers don’t just use violence, they use violence for a purpose. That said, this anger-based man is probably well represented in batterer’s programs. And my gut feeling is that this is a good thing. I would rather see an angry man who, by the nature of his rage, threatens his wife go through a batterer’s program than see an abuser go through an anger management program that might not address the gender/ entitlement issues.

This discussion may help distinguish anger management issues from domestic violence. Then again I might just be muddying the waters by splitting hairs. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"Becoming Agents of Change" - follow up

For those of you who attended the Partner Abuse facilitators training on Nov. 7, 8, & 9, I thought I would throw out some follow up questions as a way to touch base with you.

For many people who work in batterer intervention, attending a conference like this is a rare chance to talk with others who do the same work. Many folks seem to appreciate the feeling of connection, particularly because those of us who do this work are few and far between. Perhaps the most difficult thing is that during the conference you feel very supported, you're integrating new ideas into your thinking. Then you get back to your agency and you feel the excitement starting to wear off.

Here are some questions that may help you reinforce the bridge between the training atmoshpere and things 'back at the ranch'...

Now that you’re back at your agency and you’ve had time to digest the three days, what sticks out in your mind as most helpful or interesting about the training?

If you've done any groups since the training, what impact have you noticed on your facilitation approach?

What new ideas did you take from the training that you want to continue thinking about?

How do you want to put these ideas into practice?

Do you have any follow up questions that I or others can help you work through?

To post a response, click on "comments" below, then choose either "anonymous" or "other". Choosing "other" gives you the option to leave your name, but feel free to remain anonymous. Once you've typed your comment, click "publish".

New Link - JTC

I've added a new link in the side-bar to the right. It is The Journal of Technology in Counseling. It came my way today via an NEIU Listserv email from Dr. Jeff Edwards at NEIU. The focus of this journal is the use of technologies (digital media, internet, etc.) in counseling, including direct practice, research, and education. As you can tell, I'm becoming more intrigued by creative ways to use digital media to enhance the counseling field. This journal looks like a great resource toward that endeavor. Check it out when you get a chance.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Incarceration/ Pain/ Motivation...continued

Another bullet-point of my workshop at IAODAPCA talked about "amenability to treatment".

According to Marlowe, et al (Federal Probation, 00149128, Sep2003, Vol. 67, Issue 2), diverting someone to treatment in lieu of incarceration is often based on several criteria which may be more influenced by public tolerance and fears than by clinical outcomes. Some common reasons to consider someone un-amenable to treatment include having two or more convictions, having previous failures in treatment, committing rule violations in treatment, as well as certain 'exclusionary offenses' which automatically make the individual ineligible for treatment. So if any of these are present, state law may dictate that this individual is not appropriate for treatment in lieu of prison (depending on the state in question). The problem is, this is all normal behavior for someone who has developed the skills needed to commit street crimes.

Now, let's add another piece to this puzzle. According to a report by SAMHSA in 2001, 75-80% of substance abuse treatment is 12 step, abstinence-based, outpatient, group treatment. All this information taken together, I start to wonder, not if the criminal offender is amenable to treatment, but if treatment is amenable to recovery for the criminal offender. Another way to come to the same conclusion is to say that the only criminal offenders eligable for treatment are those who aren't really criminal offenders. I think we're selling them, and ourselves, short.

This is where I think a sociological understanding of the meaning of the drug-life can merge with cognitive-based intervention models to help us transform traditional drug treatment into something more effective for the criminal substance abuser. At their core, these three views (social, cognitive, and traditional drug treatment) remain philosphically opposed in their understanding of the relationship between crime and substance abuse. However, I think they can greatly enlighten and enhance one another.

Someone in the workshop asked exactly what the sociological model of treatment was. I don't know that there is one. I think the value of the sociological perspective is one of understanding the nature of the individual's behavior. It's the perspective that suggests that turning up the pain, whether in treatment or in prison, is not nearly as effective toward behavioral change as turning up the hope.
The value of the cognitive approach, on the other hand, is that it suggests that traditional drug treatment is not enough, we must challenge the "skills" of criminality and offer alternative pro-social skills.

So more questions:

How do you think we should change treatment based on this discussion?

As you think about these things, and as you look at how you've provided treatment over the years, are there things you would like to change about your counseling style or your treatment content?

What are some creative ways to instill hope for this individual, deemed by many as un-amenable to treatment?

Welcome, Agents of Change

Hello and welcome to those of you who participated in the "Becoming Agents of Change" training this week. Thanks again for making it such a valuable experience. If you feel comfortable doing so, please feel free to post a comment to say hi and let me know you stopped by here.

In the coming days I will post some of my own left-over thoughts from the conference to generate discussion around working with men who batter. This website will only be as useful as we make it, so please join in the discussion, post your thoughts and questions.

To post a comment click on "comments" below, then choose either "anonymous" or "other". Choosing "other" gives you the option to leave your name, but feel free to remain anonymous. Once you've typed your comment, click "publish".

There are two ways to read comments: 1) Click on "comments" below or, 2) Find the title of the post on the right side of the screen under "previous posts". If you click on that it will take you to a page with my post and all comments to that post on one page.

I suggest checking back about once a week to read new content. I hope you find this blog useful. Please feel free to suggest topics you'd like to see here, as well as any other suggestions.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Cheesy Counselor Cliche' #3873658......

Intimacy = In to me see

.....heard on a radio call in show with a marriage counselor of some sort.

Why are we so drawn to these somewhat useful, often vile assaults on human intelligence? Or am I becoming jaded?