What Are the Different Types of Family Therapy for Domestic Violence?

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  • Written By: Marlene de Wilde
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2019
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The different techniques used within family therapy for domestic violence issues include communication theory, psychotherapy, relationship education and systemic coaching. Family therapy uses a variety of approaches depending on the therapist's theoretical approach but many therapists are eclectic in that they use the approach that best fits the situation. A common feature of most therapies is the emphasis on relational therapy where what is going on between the individuals is the most important dynamic to be examined.

Family therapy for domestic violence is one the most common approaches to counseling abusive relationships. Family, or couple, therapy works towards changing the dysfunctional interaction between family members and developing new and healthier relationships. It originated in the early 50's when doctors working with schizophrenic patients noticed that the communication dynamic between all the family members was dysfunctional and the symptoms of the patients intensified when there was more conflict within the family. When doctors treated the whole family instead of just the family member suffering from schizophrenia, they found a significant improvement in the patient's condition. The use of family therapy for domestic violence cases implies that the couple involved wish to maintain their family intact and are prepared to work to achieve that goal.


Some types of family therapy are based on behavioral, cognitive-behavioral or psychodynamic theories, but there is also the family systems approach in which the family is treated as if it is a unit and the relationships and communication patterns between family members are of more interest than what is going on within each individual. In this approach, the dysfunction is considered a problem that lies within the family as a whole rather than being the fault of a single person. The relationships between family members may be considered as what is contributing to the problem. In terms of family therapy for domestic violence, there is not so much an aggressor and a victim or victims but instead dynamics for which all parties are responsible.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on changing the ways family members think and the way those thoughts influence and dictate behavior in order to reduce the incidence of domestic violence. Pyschodynamic family therapy focuses on talking to uncover the subconscious processes leading to the dysfunctional behavior. Systemic family therapy for domestic violence entails the identification of the problems, relationships and attitudes of the couple or family in order to provide some insight into the family dynamics. In this way, the problem is not due to one individual but the family as a whole.


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Post 2

@Grivusangel -- I'm not sure how well therapy works with abusers, period. First, they have to see the error of their ways and have to want to change. For people who think they can do no wrong, and whatever happens is always someone else's fault, getting them to admit they have a problem can be downright impossible. It frequently takes a complete spiritual change.

It all boils down to who wants to change. If an abuser has no real interest in changing, all the family therapy in the world won't do a bit of good. It's like sending an unreprentant alcoholic to rehab; it does no good and ticks off the abuser.

Post 1

I think domestic violence therapy has to start with anger management, and if both spouses are involved with the violence, then they probably both need to take classes, separately and together. They have to learn good coping methods, as well as some old fashioned self-control.

Cognitive behavior therapy can be very useful if the therapist finds that abuse was generational, in order to help members deal with the issues raised by previous abuse, and helps them identify cycles of current abuse. Working out the early issues can help people deal with their present issues.

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