Choosing a Therapist: Suggestions for Domestic Violence Victims
Some therapists understand domestic violence and some don’t. Some don’t, but think they do.
Therapists who understand domestic violence will:
- Let you tell your story at your own pace.
- Believe what you tell them.
- Take your need for safety and freedom seriously – and understand that getting free takes time and planning.
- Understand that the things your partner does in between violent incidents are also part of the abuse – including the times he is nice to you.
- Encourage you to connect with a domestic violence service provider, and be willing to talk with them if you want them to.
- Support your decisions – even the ones they disagree with – though they may challenge you to think them through clearly. This includes not pushing you to leave.
- Help you deal with your depression, anxiety, or other feelings.
- Refer you for substance abuse services, if needed.
- Help you plan for the future.
A therapist does not understand domestic violence if they:
- Think that staying with your partner indicates that you have psychological problems.
- Think that you probably contributed to your partner’s behavior, or did something to provoke him or her.
- Try to push you to leave, whether you are ready to or not.
- Try to get you to go to couple counseling with your partner, and don’t understand why this can be dangerous.
If it becomes clear to you in the first couple of sessions that the therapist does not understand domestic violence, doesn’t empathize with your situation, or blames you for it, try someone else. It’s not your job to educate them about domestic violence.
On the other hand, if you have a therapist who has been helpful to you in other ways and with whom you already have a good relationship, you might decide that it’s worth continuing with them. It’s up to you.