Domestic Violence is also known as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) or domestic abuse. It is disturbingly one of the most common forms of violence. The chances that we know someone has, or will experience domestic violence are alarmingly high.
Anyone can be a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence, regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity, cultural background, or socioeconomic status.
While domestic violence can feel extremely scary and isolating, know that you are not alone and support is available.
Our trained therapists and counselors at our offices in Amherst, Springfield, Wilbraham, and Franklin have the professional tools and compassionate support to help you heal and recover from domestic abuse. We also offer online teletherapy services to accommodate your schedule and preferences.
Our therapists for domestic violence can support victims of dating violence, elder abuse, financial abuse, sexual harassment, stalking, human trafficking, or any other aspect of abuse related to unhealthy relationships.
We consulted with Jordan Castonguay, LMHC and Kaitlin Corson, LMHC, two of HBH’s trained therapists with extensive experience in providing therapeutic counseling for victims of domestic violence.
To learn more about what domestic violence counseling involves, please read on.
To schedule an appointment with one of our trained therapists, please contact us today at (413) 343-4357.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in a relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power over the other partner. The abuser’s behaviors are meant to intimidate, manipulate, isolate, humiliate, coerce, blame, threaten, or injure the victim.
There are many different forms of abuse which fall under the umbrella of domestic violence. Some examples are:
- Physical abuse: any physically aggressive behavior: hitting, restraining, pushing, punching, kicking, beating
- Sexual abuse: forcing or demanding an unwilling partner to engage in sex, demanding sexual acts that one partner does not consent to, interfering with birth control, or trying to get the partner pregnant without consent
- Coercion: making the victim feel guilty, pushing the victim into decisions, manipulating other family members or children, insisting on being right, making the rules and forcing the victim to follow them
- Emotional abuse: any behavior that exploits another’s vulnerability, insecurity, or character: not respecting the victim’s feelings, rights, or opinions, constant criticism, humiliating remarks, not responding to what the victim is saying, mocking, name-calling, yelling, swearing, or interrupting
- Verbal abuse: abusive language used to denigrate, embarrass, or threaten the victim of abuse: gaslighting, name-calling, threatening, constantly correcting, interrupting, belittling, and demeaning
- Financial abuse: controlling the victim through manipulation of economic resources: not paying the bills, refusing to give the victim money, preventing the victim from working, refusing to work and support the family, or destroying the victim’s credit
- Technological abuse: using technology to control and stalk the victim: monitoring the victims social media, tracking devices to victims location/phone calls/messages/emails, hacking into the victims personal accounts, or forcing the victim to share passwords
- Abuse by Immigration Status: abusive behaviors used against immigrant victims: destroying the victim’s immigration papers, restricting the victim from learning English, threatening to have the victim deployed, threatening to hurt the victim’s home country and/or family.
- Elder abuse: abuse and/or neglect of an older person by someone who has a relationship with them (spouse, child, sibling, other relative, close friend) or abuse/neglect of an older person by a legal caregiver/provider
What are the Co-Occuring Mental Health Conditions of Domestic Violence?
Victims of domestic violence might feel shame, embarrassment, helplessness, confusion, and low self-esteem from their abusive partner. These can lead to more serious mental health conditions such as:
A victim of domestic violence might display signs of PTSD: always checking for the exit when they’re out of the house, scanning their environment for their partner, or being especially jumpy and on edge.
A victim might display signs of depression: distancing themselves from their friends and family members, and withdraw from activities that previously brought them joy.
-Jordan Castonuay, LMHC with HBH
The abuser’s psychological tactics of manipulation can result in severe anxiety for the victim. The abuser might constantly make the victim feel like they’re in the wrong, or they’re the crazy one. The abuser might also try to convince the victim’s loved one’s that they’re a healthy partner through giving the victim gifts, compliments, affection, and attention when the victim’s loved one’s are around.
-Kaitlin Corson, LMHC with HBH
Additionally, children growing up in homes with intimate partner violence are more at risk for poor physical health, mental health problems, and behavioral problems.
What are the Warning Signs of Domestic Violence?
From the outside perspective, the most common warning sign that someone is experiencing domestic violence is withdrawal from friends and family members. The victim also might be uncomfortable and avoid talking about their relationship with their loved ones.
-Kaitlin Corson, LMHC with HBH
While every situation is different, the following warning signs can indicate that you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship or at risk for domestic violence:
- Physical Warning Signs:
- Bruises on the arms/legs
- Sprained wrists
- Busted lips
- Black eyes
- Red or purple marks on the neck
- Emotional Warning Signs:
- Low self-esteem
- Overly apologetic
- Symptoms of depression
- Anxious and hyper vigilant
- Substance abuse
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Talking about suicide
- Behavioral Warning Signs:
- Overly withdrawn/distant
- Isolating from friends/family
- Checking for the exit
- Excessive privacy about their relationship/personal life
- Canceling appointments/meetings at the last minute
Bringing up the warning signs to someone you care about or asking for support from a loved one or mental health professional is the first step to breaking the pattern of abuse.
How Can a Victim of Domestic Violence Benefit from Working with a Therapist?
Mental health professionals can provide victims of domestic violence powerful tools and resources to heal and find safety. Domestic violence counseling can help victims:
- Build self-esteem to enhance feelings of worth
- Restore control over their situation and renew their hope for an improved life
- Heal from psychological abuse
- Develop assertiveness
- Build healthy boundaries
- Identify red flags in their relationships
- Develop new hobbies and tap into their strengths
- Reduce feelings and patterns of isolation
- Assist the victim in safely making the abuser accountable and responsible for their abuse
- Learn coping strategies to deal with traumatic events
- Motivate victims to implement a violence-free life for themselves and their loved ones
What Does Therapy for Domestic Violence Involve?
Being in a domestic violence relationship can feel extremely isolating and scary. Therapy provides a safe and confidential space for the victim to process what they are experiencing without judgment. A trained mental health professional can offer a victim of domestic violence effective coping skills and strategies to navigate their relationship.
Types of therapy for domestic violence can include:
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is a form of talk-therapy which helps the client identify the relationship between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and how they affect a person’s life situation.
CBT can help a victim of domestic violence identify disordered thoughts, and use problem-solving skills to cope with challenging situations. It can help the victim better understand the reasoning behind their partner’s behavior. It can also help the victim develop a better sense of themselves and their ability to handle difficult circumstances.
Within the application of CBT, I’ll work with the client to develop foundational skills. CBT helps the victim break the pattern of thought that they deserve the abuse. We’ll address the client’s negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves, and work to build their self-confidence.
-Kaitlin Corson, LMHC with HBH
I’ll use CBT to help the client identify different hobbies and strength-based skills which can be helpful in building their confidence outside of the relationship. We’ll explore different support grounds and recreational activities that the client can get involved in and build relationships in over time.
-Jordan Castonguay, LMHC with HBH
- Psychoeducational Therapy
Psychoeducation Therapy is a form of therapy that involves the therapist providing the client with information about their diagnosis or situation, symptoms, and treatment methods. This includes any potential risks that the client can expect.
Rather than telling the client what they should do, the therapist gives the client accurate information about their diagnosis or situation and provides treatment options. This allows the client to collaborate with their therapist, and take ownership of the treatment plan/coping skills that fit their needs.
The therapist will inform the client about the potential risks of both staying in and leaving their relationship. They will provide resources about local domestic violence support groups and domestic violence shelters:
- The National Domestic Hotline
- Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless: Statewide Domestic Violence Shelters
- Domestic Violence Program for Survivors
The therapist will also help the client develop an effective safety plan should they decide to leave their abusive relationship:
- A safe place to go in case of emergency, or if they need to leave home
- An excuse to leave if they feel threatened
- A list of emergency contacts: domestic violence shelter, domestic violence hotline, trusted friends and family members
- A code word/code phrases to alert family or friends if help is needed
- An escape bag of cash, social security documents, documentation records, keys, a change of clothes, toiletries
EMDR is a form of psychotherapy for trauma resolution which focuses directly on the patient’s memory of the event, and is intended to change the way the memory is stored in the patient’s brain. Successful EMDR therapy allows the patient to bring the traumatic memory to mind without experiencing distress.
EMDR therapy can help a victim of domestic violence move from fear to a neutral feeling: reducing the impact of the memory on their psyche. The objective is not to erase the memory, but instead to decrease the emotional pain attached to it.
Warning: If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788. You can also use the online chat.
If you or your loved one is experiencing domestic violence, know that you are not alone and help is available.
Our trained mental health professionals at HBH can provide ongoing support and counseling services during your recovery from domestic violence. We offer counseling without judgment, where the victim has total autonomy and control over their healing process. Our therapists will help you develop effective coping strategies critical to your situation.
Our therapists in Amherst, Wilbraham, West Springfield, Franklin, and across Massachusetts will answer all of your questions and concerns.
Please contact us today at (413) 343-4357 or request an appointment online to start your journey to recovery.