ABC’s of Counseling

Counseling Victims of Domestic Violence

Counseling services provide victims and their children with an opportunity to address the impact of violence in their lives.

• Research suggests that psycho-educational, supportive counseling for battered women is an effective approach for improving self-esteem, affect (anxiety, depression and hostility), assertiveness, social support, focus of control, coping abilities, and self-efficacy. (Cox & Stoltenberg, 1991; Mancoske, Standifer, & Cauley, 1994; Tutty, 1996; Tutty, Bidgood, & Rothery, 1993).

• According to an evaluation by the Illinois Department of Human Services of all 87 state-funded domestic violence and sexual assault agencies in Illinois, the following were found to be true:

1. Domestic violence victims perceive an improvement in their decision making ability after receiving domestic violence counseling.
2. Domestic violence victims increase their self-efficacy and coping skills.
3. Many of the participants in the study were victims of childhood sexual abuse (30%) and/or childhood physical abuse (37%).

Counseling Child Witnesses to Domestic Violence

Studies indicate between 3.3 million and 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. And research indicates that these children are as negatively affected by witnessing family violence as children who are victims of child abuse. In fact, many feel that witnessing domestic violence is child abuse.

• Research has indicated that child-centered play therapy for child witnesses of domestic violence has been effective. Results of one study indicated a significant improvement in both the self-concepts and play behaviors of nurturing and creative play themes for the children in the experimental group as compared to children in the control group. Results also showed a significant reduction in both externalizing behavior problems and total behavior problems manifested for the children in the experimental group. (Kot, Sarina; Landreth, Garry L.; Giordano, Maria. “Intensive child-centered play therapy with child witnesses of domestic violence.” International Journal of Play Therapy, Vol 7 (2), 1998, 17-36).

• At HCWC, our Children’s Counselor utilizes play therapy in the following ways: individual, group and sibling groups. The Children’s Counselor also utilizes other methods of intervention with older children and adolescents.

• The most common interventions for children who have witnessed domestic violence is group counseling. Most of these groups are time-limited, usually between 6 and 10 weeks, and use a specific psycho-educational curriculum that provides structure for discussions about family violence, personal safety, and identification of feelings.

• At HCWC, we offer this type of group for child witnesses. We require that mothers attend a concurrent group.

• Groups can assist children and adolescents with important developmental tasks. Groups also break the isolation and enable children to tell their stories in the presence of others who closely identify with the experience (Peled, E. and Davis, D. Groupwork with Children of Battered Women, 1995).

Counseling Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Childhood sexual abuse affects every aspect of a victim’s life, as well as their ability to relate to the world.

• The goal of therapy is not primarily “overcoming the past” or expression and catharsis regarding the past, but rather one of encouraging emotional vitality and personal integration. If the therapeutic relationship can provide enough safety, containment and emotional connection, survivors can transform their experiences of abuse (Kaufmann, 1985).

• The therapeutic relationship must also address the repair of the interpersonal damage survivors suffer as a result of the childhood traumas (Kaufmann, 1985).

• Trusting relationships with others are diminished by both the frequent use of coercion that is typical in abusive families and by the violation caused by the abuse itself (Briere & Runtz, 1096; Timmons-Mitchell&Gardner, 1991).

• A major goal of treatment, as Catherall (1991) notes, is “the re-establishment of a trusting relationship between the victim and his or her most immediate experience of the human community, the therapist” (p.145)

• In the past the vast majority of clinical research focused on women as the victims of sexual abuse. In the last few years, however, professionals have also begun to examine the experiences of men who have been sexually abused (Bolton, Morris & MacEachron, 1989; Bruckner & Johnson, 1987; Dimcock, 1988; Grumman-Black, 1990). As a result, childhood sexual abuse is increasingly being viewed as a misuse of power (Gelles & Straus, 1988) which is committed by both men and women upon victims of either sex.

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