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intervention

Intervention Programs for Abusive Behavior

interventionThe question “Can my partner change?” is undoubtedly at the front of a person’s mind if they’re in a relationship with an abusive partner. There are many obstacles to leaving an abusive relationship, or reasons to want to stay, so it only follows that we often desperately hope our partner changes their ways. While there’s no consensus on whether or not abusive partners can truly change, we know that some people do, but only when they genuinely want to change and devote themselves to doing so.

The other big question is “How?” Most states offer classes or intervention programs on changing abusive behaviors, and what states call these programs varies. For abusive partners who haven’t been mandated to enter into an intervention program, choosing voluntarily do so on one’s own is a big first step toward initiating change.

Anger Management

Many people assume that the best course of action is an anger management program, but this is often not a good option for a domestic violence situation. People who are abusive often express anger toward their partner, but having an anger problem means they would also behave the same way toward friends, family, co-workers and others – not just their partner.

Anger management focuses on that person’s inability to control their anger and what triggers these emotions, and this can be counterproductive for an abusive partner. Examining what triggers their anger can reinforce the idea that the victim is responsible for the violence. This takes the abuser off the hook for their actions.

Anger management courses do not address issues of power and control within a relationship, which are the source of domestic violence. A better option would be an intervention program that does focus on these issues, which are often referred to as Batterer Intervention & Prevention Programs (or BIPPs).

Batterer Intervention & Prevention Programs

There are a few types of services and interventions in the U.S. for those who may identify as abusive. Batterer Intervention & Prevention Programs (BIPPs) are the most widespread, but they aren’t available everywhere.

A BIPP is different than other counseling and intervention programs in that it centers around complete accountability, victim safety and education about the behaviors that likely brought participants there in the first place. Certified batterer intervention programs have a wide range of durations, varying from a weekend retreat to 52 weekly meetings. They’re generally offered by a few professionally-trained facilitators, and usually have eight to ten participants.

People enter into BIPPs for various reasons. Many are required by judges to attend as a condition of probation or as part of a sentence. Others enroll to try to save a relationship and keep their partner from leaving. The best reason for joining a BIPP is genuine desire to change.

These programs teach all about abuse: the range of coercive or abusive behaviors, common abusive tactics and the effects that abuse has on partners and families. Participants learn about healthy relationships and non-violent behaviors. BIPPs also challenge pre-existing beliefs that abusive partners might have, such as entitlement/ownership and gender roles.

The program should be structured around a clear understanding that abusive behavior is chosen, and that while substance abuse or mental health issues can occur simultaneously, they should be addressed through separate services.

As a result of attending this type of program, the abusive partner would ideally learn how to:

  • effectively communicate with their partner instead of being emotionally, verbally, or physically abusive
  • support their partner’s decisions even if they disagree
  • encourage their partner to spend time with friends and family
  • build trust and empathy within the relationship
  • refrain from using coercive actions to control and intimidate their partner
  • identify ongoing harmful behavior
  • behave respectfully toward their partner

Do You Want to Change?

If you think you may be mistreating or hurting your partner, call us at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Our advocates can discuss the differences between healthy and unhealthy behaviors. If you’re at the stage where you know you want to seek help, our advocates can also refer you to resources in your area. As always, it’s important to remember that change doesn’t happen overnight — it’s an ongoing process that takes work and willingness.

If your partner is abusive to you, it’s important to note that addressing the abuse with your partner may not always be safe. You know your situation best, so if you feel that discussing the abuse with your partner would escalate his/her abusive behavior, listen to your instincts. You can always contact the Hotline to talk about ways to have this conversation safely or other strategies to explore your options.

Related Posts

Is Change Possible In An Abusive Partner?
Expecting Magic From Abuser Programs

cool-off

Seeing Red? How To Cool Off When You’re Angry

Anger is one of those electrical emotions that all of us experience — some more often or more easily than others — and different things provoke us and rile us up. It can be a healthy emotion up to a point. For instance, anger about a cause, an injustice or a political issue can motivate us to act for good. A lot of the most influential movements and changes in our country began with a feeling of anger or frustration.

But anger can also be very dangerous. Anger can get out of control and have negative effects on yourself and others, depending on how you deal with it and express it. The emotion manifests itself in different ways, and if you find yourself getting angry frequently and intensely, you can probably begin to notice physical symptoms first. Your heart beats faster, your breathing rate increases, your muscles tense up, and more.


If you feel yourself getting angry, what should you do?

  • cool-offTell yourself to calm down. Slowly repeat gentle phrases to yourself like “take it easy,” “cool off,” or whatever works for you.
  • Force yourself to leave the situation. Take a time out, walk away, and avoid coming back too soon. Take a walk or go for a run.
  • Use visualization to calm down. Close your eyes and picture yourself in your favorite place.
  • Count to 10 (or 50… or 100) if you feel like you’re about to do or say something harmful. It’s a quick, easy way to separate yourself mentally from the situation.
  • Splash some cold water on your face.
  • Slow down and focus on your breathing. Conscious breathing involves taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose, and slowly out through your mouth.
  • Phone a friend. Do you have a supportive friend or family member who can lend an ear and calm you down?
  • Try to replace negative, angry thoughts with positive, rational ones. Even if you’re feeling upset, remind yourself that getting angry isn’t going to fix the way that you’re feeling.

Now what?

Make time for yourself to de-stress and focus on an activity that makes you happy, whether that’s reading, spending time with friends, or whatever else. Getting enough exercise weekly can also help alleviate stress.

Practice relaxation techniques such as listening to soothing sounds or songs, or doing meditation or yoga.

Keep a journal or log about your anger. Record the feelings you experienced, what factors contributed to your anger and how you responded to it. Try to write down the thoughts that were going through your mind and the time, and then reflect on these instances and see if there’s any sort of pattern to your anger.

Think about the consequences that come with angry outbursts. Is your anger causing strain on your relationship? Scaring your children? Take time to reflect on how your anger could be affecting those around you.

Try to note any other emotions you’re feeling alongside anger. Are you feeling depressed? Frustrated? Confused?

Learn about communicating with others in a healthy way. Being able to talk rationally and calmly when you start to feel angry can be an important part of relieving anger.

Consider taking an anger management course or going to counseling.


Further Reading


If you’re taking out your anger on your partner, give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233). You can speak confidentially with a non-judgmental advocate about these behaviors and discuss steps for getting help.

 

anger

The Negative Effects of Anger On You and Others

Has there ever been a time in your life when you got angry and ended up hurting someone you care about? In the aftermath of feeling mad, it’s often easy to spot and pinpoint the damage you’ve done. There are visible, tangible signs: tears on the face of your partner, a heavy silence hanging in the air after a loud shouting match.

But anger issues can also cause problems in your life that perhaps aren’t so easy to spot right away. Unfortunately, there’s a whole laundry list of ways that anger can have a negative effect on your life and on the lives of those around you.

Do you ever feel like your anger might be getting out of control? Do you have trouble calming down when you get angry? How do you express these feelings?  If anger is a common emotion in your life, chances are you’re causing undue harm to yourself and others.anger

Your anger affects you

Do you ever feel really angry and unable to let something go? Do you feel like you’re continually on the brink, or on edge? When your anger lasts for extended periods of time, it becomes more difficult to cope with little aggravations in your life and it becomes harder to de-stress.

This can affect every day activities, like work and extracurriculars. It can be hard to focus on tasks or accomplish projects, and can make people not want to work alongside you. Anger also causes feelings like guilt, remorse and shame (especially if you generally act out in ways that you later regret.)

If you’re angry and constantly stressed because of this, it’s also likely that you’ll feel unable to let loose and have fun — which is important for your mental wellbeing.

Excessive anger also puts your physical wellbeing at risk. In the short term, anger can cause headaches, migraines, chest pains, aches and more. Over the long term, anger issues can further complicate pre-existing health conditions. It can also put you at risk for hypertension, high blood pressure, depression, and cardiovascular issues.

While this all may sound like a television PSA for a new drug with “possible side effects,” the impact that your anger issues can have on your life are real and far-reaching.

Your anger affects those around you

You know the saying “laughter is contagious?” The same holds true for other emotions. Your anger can affect not only you, but the people in your life as well. It casts a negative feeling on those around you.

At the very least, your anger can cause people to feel put off, upset, intimidated, afraid, or a handful of other unpleasant emotions. You’re also running the risk of pushing loved ones out of your life for good.

Do you lash out at your partner when you’re angry? Whether this is emotional, physical or both, it can have an extremely negative effect on your partner’s wellbeing. Solving conflict with anger, yelling and violence also sets an unhealthy precedent in a relationship, ignoring the need for open, trusting communication.

If you’re taking out your anger on your partner, give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233). You can speak confidentially with a non-judgmental advocate about these behaviors and discuss steps for getting help.

If you feel like your anger might be getting the best of you, becoming aware of this is the first step toward making a change.

Further Reading

Psychology Today has a lot of helpful articles about anger.

can abusers change

Is Change Possible In An Abuser?

People change.

That small, two-word sentence is actually a huge, significant statement that carries a lot of weight. We grow up learning about change — the inevitability of it, the uncertainty it can bring. We change — our opinions, personalities, careers, friends and much more.

Some changes feel like they happen overnight. Others are more conscious, and they have to be, like overcoming an addiction or correcting a personality flaw that’s harmful to ourselves or others.

If you’re the one wanting a loved one to change, it can feel impossible — but we hold onto the hope that they will change, because we desperately want them to, because we remember how they were different in the past (and if they changed for the worse, can’t they change for the better?)

Can an abusive partner really change?

While people do have the capacity to change, they need to deeply want to and be committed to all aspects of change in order to begin to do so — and even then, it’s a lot easier said than done.

In discussing why abusers abuse , it’s clear that a lot of the causal factors behind these behaviors are learned attitudes and feelings of entitlement and privilege — which can be extremely difficult to truly change. Because of this, there’s a very low percentage of abusers who truly do change their ways.

One part of changing may involve an abusive partner willingly attending a certified batterer intervention program that focuses on behavior, reflection and accountability. At the Hotline we don’t recommend couples counseling, anger management, substance abuse programs or mental health treatments for abusers to learn about and deal with their abusive patterns (although oftentimes these can helpfully supplement a batterer intervention program).

How can abusers change?

According to author Lundy Bancroft, the following are some changes in your partner that could indicate they’re making progress in their recovery:

  • Admitting fully to what they have done
  • Stopping excuses and blaming
  • Making amends
  • Accepting responsibility and recognizing that abuse is a choice
  • Identifying patterns of controlling behavior they use
  • Identifying the attitudes that drive their abuse
  • Accepting that overcoming abusiveness is a decades-long processnot declaring themselves “cured”
  • Not demanding credit for improvements they’ve made
  • Not treating improvements as vouchers to be spent on occasional acts of abuse (ex. “I haven’t done anything like this in a long time, so it’s not a big deal)
  • Developing respectful, kind, supportive behaviors
  • Carrying their weight and sharing power
  • Changing how they respond to their partner’s (or former partner’s) anger and grievances
  • Changing how they act in heated conflicts
  • Accepting the consequences of their actions (including not feeling sorry for themselves about the consequences, and not blaming their partner or children for them)

Learn more about Lundy Bancroft here and check out some of his helpful books, including “Why Does He Do That? Inside The Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.”


As Bancroft notes, truly overcoming abusiveness can be an ongoing, often lifelong process.

No one deserves abuse, and it’s never too late to seek help. While we hope abusive partners will change, it’s not always realistic to expect that they can and will. Focus on changes you can control to improve your own life, because you deserved to feel loved, happy and safe.

In the words of artist Andy Warhol, “When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then… You can’t make them change if they don’t want to.”