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You Made Me Hit You! Interventions with Male Batterers

Section 3
Batterer Intervention Programs

Question 3 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed working as a therapeutic team.

Now let's look at an overview of three stages of abuse. I find that when I ask members of my anger management group to talk about their abusive actions, they tend to describe three stages of abuse. Stage one is "Something snaps." Stage two is "Abuse isn't worth Jail Time." Stage three is "Stopping the Abuse." As you listen to an overview of the interventions I used for each of these three stages, think about whether you have used, or could use, the interventions with a physically abusive client of yours.

3 Stages of Abuse

♦ Stage # 1 - "Something Snaps"
In Man to Man, Edleson calls the first stage the "Something Snaps" stage. When I asked Ian, a 35-year-old unemployed painter, to talk about how his violence starts, he stated, "It just seems automatic. Something snaps and wham! I go off like a gun!"

Four Causes
Edleson notes four causes of the "Something Snaps" stage. Those causes are:
-- 1. Behavioral Deficits
-- 2. Depression
-- 3. Hostility
-- 4. Psychopathology.

Two Key Questions
I wanted to increase Ian's awareness of Edleson's four causes of the "Something Snaps" stage. So, I urged Ian to consider two key questions about himself:
-- 1. When did the abuse begin?
-- 2. What caused the anger to take over?

As you know, it is difficult for many clients to pinpoint and verbalize the beginnings of their behavior. I found that when put on the spot by other group members during a session, Ian was better able to answer these questions. Thus, Ian began to think about what was causing himto snap. For instance, Ian began to realize that something snapped inside him when he lost his job. I suggested that the depression that resulted from being fired was a possible cause of his "Something Snaps" stage.

♦ Stage # 2 - "Abuse Isn't Worth Jail Time"
Edleson refers to the second stage of abuse as the "Abuse Isn't Worth Jail Time" stage. After several sessions, Ian stated, "My wife Heather's always dumping all her problems on me, like how she keeps getting the late shift at the restaurant. But, yelling and giving her a smack or two never stops her from complaining. Sure, she'll stop talking for a while, but the next day she's whining again. Then, damn it, the next thing I know, she's called the cops and I end up in jail, before a judge and ordered to this damn group."

I asked Ian if he was beginning to realize that Abuse Isn't Worth Jail Time. As you know, batterers like Ian often realize, after the fact, that they are severely damaging their spouses and children. However, batterers like Ian fail to realize this fact while they are inflicting inerasable physical and emotional abuse onto their loved ones. I asked Ian if jail time is the outcome that he wanted. He stated emphatically, "No!"

♦ Practical Disputing Method for Intervention
So, Ian had begun to realize that "abuse isn't worth jail time." To further emphasize this point, I used Ellis's "Practical Disputing" Method. I asked Ian where abuse would lead him. At first he downplayed the negative results of his actions. Finally he stated, "It might get me sent to jail." I asked what effects jail time would have on his current lifestyle and activities.

Ian stated, "That would ruin my life. I mean, at least it would ruin my life as I see it now. You know how some employers are. They run a background check. With jail time on my record, no one would trust me in their house to paint." I find that the use of Practical Disputing helps eliminate the excuses that I consistently see my clients using.

"Taking Responsibility" Examination
I wanted to increase Ian's awareness that when he verbally and physically abuses Heather, he may be emotionally destroying the person he cares about the most. To help Ian understand the concept of emotionally destroying his wife, I used the "Taking Responsibility" Examination. Here's how I applied this method. I asked Ian, as well as the rest of the group, to consider those things about themselves they have control over.

After some group discussion, Ian stated, "I have control over smacking Heather. But I don't have control over when she starts to whine." Think of a client you are currently treating. Would the "Taking Responsibility" Examination be beneficial in your next session?

♦ Stage # 3 - "Stopping the Abuse"
I have found that the "Taking Responsibility" Examination is helpful in leading clients toward the "Stopping the Abuse" stage. In order to get Ian thinking about the "Stopping the Abuse" stage, I asked him, "How can you stop the behavior that leads to your violence?"

Are you currently treating a physically abusive client who is ready for the Stopping the Abuse stage? Would Ellis's Practical Disputing be of assistance in your next session?

In this section, I discussed an overview of the three stages of abuse that batterers experience during their abusive relationship and the therapy process. In the next section, we will discuss red flags that a batterer might learn to recognize as preceding violence.
Reviewed 2023

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.

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.

Poole, G. M., & Murphy, C. M. (2019). Fatherhood status as a predictor of intimate partner violence (IPV) treatment engagement. Psychology of Violence, 9(3), 340–349.

What are three stages of abuse that batterers experience? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 4
Table of Contents