Other Interventions

In considering interventions, it is important to keep in mind the nature of abusive violence for which the perpetrator is responsible. Occasional violence from someone who is committed to changing his or her behavior must be distinguished from a pattern of coercive control.

  • Anger management programs in the state are not intended for those who commit violence in an intimate relationship, but rather for those who commit violence to strangers, co-workers, fellow drivers, and in some cases, siblings. They offer short-term interventions designed to teach perpetrators of violence to recognize the triggers for and signs of anger and to defuse it. Participants are taught different techniques, including relaxation techniques, to control their rage. Critics point out that most batterers are able to control their anger in most situations and that battering specifically and strategically targets the partner.
  • Men's groups, fathers' groups, men's groups against violence, and nurturing parents' groups are non-stigmatizing groups which support non-violent behavior, and when available, may be helpful to men who are not systematically violent to their partners. Before referring to such a program, however, it is best to consult with a domestic violence expert about the client's pattern of behavior.
  • In some states (not Massachusetts at this writing) there are self-help groups also known as "Batterers Anonymous." These groups are modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous and facilitated by former batterers, with members setting the agendas to fit their personal concerns. Criticisms of this type of intervention are that the groups are insufficiently structured, and the facilitators lack the qualifications and skills to conduct the groups effectively.
  • Substance abuse treatment is sometimes mandated for batterers, since many have substance abuse problems. Most practitioners in the domestic violence field believe that substance abuse treatment should not be a substitute for treatment which directly addresses the violence. The best practice is treatment for both substance abuse and violence, either through a specialized batterers' group or by participating in separate treatment programs for addictions and for battering.
  • Psychotherapy may be considered as an intervention, as many people who are abusive to their partners are, themselves, in psychological distress. Alternatively, social workers may discover that clients in treatment for other reasons are, in fact, abusing their partners. The research on psychotherapy and battering suggests that insight-oriented therapy is not effective at ending battering behavior. A useful analogy is psychotherapy and addictions. Violence, like addictions, should be addressed specifically and directly.
  • Couples counseling is not recommended in most cases. Batterers often see their partner's behavior as the cause of their own violence and believe working with their partners will help them control their violence. Unless and until a person can claim responsibility for their violent behavior, they are unlikely to end it. Because couples counseling often places a high value on honesty and openness, this can place some victims in danger since they may feel pressured to disclose their partner's abusive behavior, and this may trigger further abuse by the partner.