Intervention Programs for Abusive Behavior

Intervention Programs for Abusive Behavior

intervention programsThe 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 a 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

Comment section

22 replies
  1. I am seeking info or resources have been in a physical and verbal abuse relationship for 25 years. And have 3 children I am a professional woman not happy have left in past but I feel it has gotten harder. And have become fearful of leaving.. I don’t know why I can’t cut away my children have even told me to leave

  2. Griselda,

    Taking the first steps can be difficult. We know that abusive relationships escalate over time, so I’m glad that you are reaching out. Most people find it difficult to leave an abusive relationship. Please know that you are not alone. Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) so that we can talk you about your options and help you create a plan to stay safe.

    Hotline Advocate VG

  3. It is definitely hard to leave. However, it is the best decision I’ve ever made! I now have a life again and don’t feel hopeless and worthless and lost. Living with a batterer-emotional or physical- is nothing short of torture and being guilted into staying only makes matters worse! It is not healthy for the kids to see this. I think it is better that they have ONE healthy parent, not one batterer and one shell of a parent. Best of luck to you all! You can do it!!! It’s worth it a million times over! Read my story if you’d like for what to expect.

  4. Dear Danica,

    I am so glad that you are doing so well. I have heard from many victims about how free they feel after leaving an abusive relationship. You’re absolutely right that domestic violence is devastating for children. Congratulations survivor! I hope your life is full of joy.

    Hotline Advocate MT

  5. I have no idea why I’m still alive. I need out of this relationship, He told me if I left he would ruin my kids lives and let me watch, then he would ruin mine. Are u kidding me, at this point I go to bed praying that one of us wakes up dead, and to be honest I don’t even care if it’s me anymore. 20 years wasted, kids all grown, I am so terrified that I can hardly function. I need to leave, I know it, I’m not stupid. I have no where to go that I will be safe, he will hunt me down.

  6. Hi sadsack,

    Thanks for reaching out. Many people that we talk to are in the situation that you’re in. They are terrified to stay and scared to leave. Most people who are abused feel overwhelmed and stressed out, so they may go back and forth with the idea of getting help. We know that leaving can be just as terrifying as staying for some victims. We also know many abusers make all types of threats to make you believe that it’s better to just stay. You don’t sound stupid. You sound like someone who is doing their best to survive. You deserve to be able to live in peace and feel safe in your own home.

    It’s a tough situation, but you don’t have to go through it alone. If you need to talk to an advocate, we’re here 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233. We’re also completely confidential and anonymous.

    Take care,
    Hotline Advocate VG

  7. My husband will be home in november 26th 2014…I really feel we going to need help…uts been 3 years since I put him in jail for hitting me and I been waiting for him…I visit him every week and we always happy in the visit….I dont know how life is going to be now that he is coming back home

  8. I have in the past facilitated a Battatter Intervention Program. I found that addiction was a factor in the incident Addressing it was a mediating factor in successful outcome.

  9. Vanessa,
    Thank you so much for reaching out to our blog community. It sounds as though it has been a long time since you have cohabited with your husband, of course please know that we are here as a support system for you any time during that time. Transitioning from jail to home life can be difficult under the best circumstances, factor in that he had gone in there because of abuse brings up concerns in coming home. We do know that programs like a Batterers Intervention program can be very helpful for persons who are abusive to their partners, and do not recommend things like anger management or couples counseling.
    I can see that this is a worrisome time for you in thinking about what that change will be like at home when he gets back. But you are still the most important thing in this equation. Focusing on your self care and support systems may be able to help you with that transition. Just know that we are here at 800-799-7233 24 hours a day if you need any assistance finding resources, or just for a supportive space to talk about whats going on. Anything that we can do to help you along the way, we would be happy to do.
    Take Care.
    Hotline Advocate RF

  10. Hi Robert,

    We’re glad to hear about your experience with a successful battering intervention program. Learning to share power and thrive in a relationship based on equality, trust, and respect is a life changing experience. While we maintain that addiction does not cause abuse, we understand that it can be a factor in a relationship that is already unhealthy or abusive. Understanding someone’s experiences and needs in a non-judgmental way can be incredibly empowering on their healing journey.

    At the Hotline, it’s incredibly important to us that everyone is treated with respect and dignity. We encourage anyone involved in an abusive relationship, and looking for support and resources to contact us. We are anonymous and confidential, and available by phone 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233, and by chat via our website 9am-7pm CST.

    Take care,

    Hotline Advocate AS

  11. I was convicted of corporal battery on a spouse.
    I will be spending the next year and a half in prison.
    I would like all the information possible to ensure I use this time productively.
    Please mail me everything you can to help me overcome this.
    I’ve never been abusive before, but alcohol has caused 3 different situations with 2 different partners, so I know this is a ME problem.
    All information you could send, possibly a mail program, anything please.
    Resources, any information you can provide will help ensure your objectives, wouldn’t it?
    I will be paying for my p.o. box in advance, so mail will be forwarded to me.
    Please help me all you can. Please.

  12. Craig,

    Thank you for reaching out to our blog community. It sounds like you are really working hard to make sure this does not occur again. We know that the journey to change is life long and starts when a person takes responsibility for their behaviors and perspective. We know that abuse is something that happens because one person uses many different strategies to gain and maintain power and control over their partner. That is something that happens aside from the physical abuse. It is important to dig deep to think through those moments and identify them as control tactics.

    There are a few printed resources to help with this shift: Violent No More by Michael Paymar is a good one that focuses on alternative ways to express emotions. Feel free to also give us a call at 1800-799-7233 to talk about the packet of resources we can also mail to you.

    Good Luck,

  13. I saw one of the Speechless commercials tonight and decided it’s time to start the conversation. I see some of the red flags of abusive behavior in my husband-hitting, punching, kicking things. Shoving our being rough with our pets when they don’t do what he wants, when another driver does something he doesn’t like he drives crazy to the point I’m afraid… But he does these things around family and friends too. Usually only to the ones he knows well. But, I feel he doesn’t try as hard to hide his rage when it’s just us. He’s never hurt me on purpose or threatened to. I have financial freedom and he doesn’t try to control my social life or family relationships. Is this abuse or an anger management issue? I’ve never spoke to anyone about this because it’s embarassing. Embarassing because he’s always been like this. Embarassing to be a victim. Embarassing to feel weak, to not know how to deal with this. I am a strong, smart woman who doesn’t deserve to live like this. I can see he doesn’t like feeling and acting the way he does. I’ve begged for him to try seeing a counselor. He refuses. He has said he might be open to reading a book or trying different techniques to control his temper. We’ve been together for 7 years, married for two. No kids. And he has gotten a lot better controlling his temper since we met. What do I do?

  14. April,

    Thank you for reaching out. It definitely sounds like a very painful and scary situation. In a healthy relationship, one should never be afraid of their partner. And even if he hasn’t threatened you directly doesn’t mean that he isn’t using his anger to intimidate you. Do you find yourself walking on eggshells, always worried about saying something wrong? Does it feel like he is angry when he wants something from you or doesn’t get his way? Abuse can be a complex thing but as you have already said, you feel like a victim. That is enough. You are the best person qualified to evaluate whether a situation you are in is abusive, you are living it after all. So trust your gut and do what feels right.

    If you’d like, you are more than welcome to call us. We can talk more about your situation, hopefully develop a plan for your safety and then get you connected to any local resources that can help. You can reach us at 1 (800) 799-7233. We are completely confidential/anonymous and we are here 24/7. You don’t need to do this alone. Breaking the silence can be so hard but it can also be an important first step.

    Until then,
    Hotline Advocate MC

  15. Hello me and my bf of almost 4 years are in a abusive relationship. Bigger problem is we both abuse each other. We love each other and want help we are tired of living the way we are especially because we have a beautiful lil girl. Please help is there any abusive behavior interventions we can go to or batteres home?? In California. Any phone numbers plz help we want to get better for our lil girl

  16. Hi Looking4help,

    Thank you so much for reaching out to us and sharing your story with our blog community here. Finding intervention programs is definitely something that our advocates here can do with you over the phone or by chat. Please do feel free to contact us by phone 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 or by chat ( from 7am to 2am CST; our advocates can talk with you about your situation, help brainstorm next steps, and find resources and intervention programs that you may try contacting.

    Thank you again and take care,
    Advocate AC

  17. I have been with my boyfriend for 6 months and honestly since the first day he was nothing less than my best friend. Our first date was so perfect and we were so comfortable. About 4 months ago we were on our way home from the airport and we were fighting pretty bad and using members of the opposite sex as our defense. When I went to write to a guy to reciprocate for what he wrote to a girl he grabbed my phone, choked me and hit my head off the shifter. Needless to say soon after he appologized and didn’t understand why he did that. His parents were never abusive so he has no clue where it comes from. There has been times where he breaks things in my house he has poured shampoo and conditioner on my head and made me sit like that and not move burned me with cigarettes, spit on me, called me horrible names and this will keep going for a while. Since our first he has choked me about 4 times there after. He winds up snapping out of it soon after and loves me unconditionally. My son has been around when he’s done this and it has effected him mentally even though he has never seen him lay a hand on me. When we are good things are wonderful his family loves me and I love them and he treats me like a complete princess 80% of the time. He told me he will do absolutely everything to keep me he knows he needs help and he is completely willing to get it. We have been attending counseling together and seeking spirtiual help we recently found a couple we look up to apart of our religion. I just need to know can things change and why can he be so loving and we laugh have the best time together text each other at the same moment we feel so perfect for each other why does he get violent? Is it the drugs he used to do in life (he no longer uses) but does he have a chemical imbalance? Can things get better? I do not want my son around him however my whole family knows and wants me to end it with him. They don’t know how great things are when they are good and I want him to get help and be that man 100% of the time. Can things change and can I ever feel able to bring my son back around him? I could use as many responses as possible. Thank you!

  18. Hi Jessica,

    We’re so glad that you’ve found us and are part of our online community!

    I can definitely understand why this situation is so confusing. Your boyfriend chooses to be calm, loving, and non-violent for much of the time, demonstrating that he is capable of making those choices. When he hurts you, the reason is he violent is because he is choosing to be, and he is making a choice to hurt you and to put your life in danger. Choking is a big red flag when it comes to your safety because it can so quickly become lethal. He makes these choices because he believes that he has the right to treat you this way, but he doesn’t. He’s violating your right to be safe, as well as your son’s, and that is not okay. Children growing up with domestic violence are often deeply affected mentally, emotionally, socially, etc.

    While few abusive people choose to change, it is a possibility. Changing abusive behavior means taking responsibility for your choices and learning how to have a healthy relationship. If your boyfriend is sincere about changing, he is welcome to call us anytime 24/7 at (800) 799-7233 for help finding a battering intervention and prevention program (BIPP). We don’t recommend couple’s counseling for abuse because these are behaviors only he can change. You do not have control over him or the choices he makes, so you cannot stop the abuse.

    If you’d like to talk more, please know that we’re here for you by phone, or chat (7am – 2am CST every day). You deserve all the support available and we’re here for you.

    Take care,

    Hotline Admin AS

  19. An important point made in the article is that it’s important to recognize and contain the signs and symptoms of battery in the family, and how an intervention is vital to preserving the family structure. Anger management is one of the ways that can help keep someone’s temper in check without having to resort to violence in the family. If I had the opportunity to be part of an intervention, I would stress on the importance of communication and support within the family, since this is a vital part of being able to function as a complete family unit.

  20. Hi I’m in a abusive relationship my husband is abusive if I tell him the truth about somethings or if we disagree on somethings he wants to fight me. I’m disable I live in housing and he’s not supposed to be living here and I’m afraid to call the police because I’ll get put out because he’s not supposed to be living here what do I do because I don’t know.

  21. Hi Annette!
    It sounds like you have some concerns and questions about your relationship. To speak to an advocate about what you’re going through, reach out to our crisis hotline or online chat with us. We’re here 24/7.

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