Think Twice Logo Think  Twice!
Relationship Abuse Prevention
and Recovery

Toni McLean
0409 599 887
info@thinktwiceprogram.net
Suite 1, 65 Old Hume Highway
Mittagong  NSW  2575


For professionals:
Training and consultation on partner violence

For individuals and couples:
Counselling & group programs
for people experiencing aggression or abuse
   from partners or other family members
for people being aggressive
group programs for anger or aggression
support group for men who have
   experienced partner abuse
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Copyright 2009 Toni  McLean

Frequently Asked Questions

What is normal relationship conflict?
In normal relationship conflict, both partners usually feel they are able to say “no” to the other partner without feeling controlled or even threatened in some way. Partners are not usually actively working to undermine or control the other. Both partners feel they can hold their ground and, overall, they have equal say in relationship decisions. Neither partner will choose to use physical aggression or other behaviours to get their own way.
It does sometime happen, though, that arguments may mutually escalate to the point where one or both partners moves to the level of using some kind of physical aggression towards the other.
The difference is in the motivation that drives the use of physical or otherwise behaviour.


What is abusive behaviour in a relationship?
Abusive behaviour is:
  any persistent, repetitive behaviour which serves to make one partner feel disrespected or threatened,
    in their relationship
, or which physically hurts a partner
  any controlling behaviour which serves to keep the other partner compliant and powerless in the
    relationship.

It comes in a variety of forms: verbal, emotional, psychological, financial, social, spiritual, physical,  and sexual …more

How is it different from “normal” relationship conflict?
In normal relationship conflict, neither partner feels too scared to hold their ground in a disagreement. This may also include where it becomes physical, but of course physical aggression causes other problems in the relationship.
In relationship conflict which is controlling or abusive, one partner is unable to say no to the other, and they feel as though they do not have equal space or value in the relationship. Controlling or abusive relationships often have a cycle of controlling or abusive behaviour which escalates over time, and it may reach the point of being dangerous.

Early intervention in the form of the services offered by “Think Twice!” can short circuit this cycle and set the relationship on a different path.

Are all abusive relationships the same?
No. In some conflictual relationships abuse or violence occurs as a result of angry conflict in which one or both partners does not have sufficient impulse or behavioural control to stop themselves from being violent. It may also be directly linked to particular situations. This is called “expressive” or “situational” violence.
 In other conflictual relationships violence, or the threat of violence, is used to gain and maintain pervasive control over the other partner. This is referred to as “instrumental” violence, which is used for the purpose of controlling most aspects of the other partner’s life.
 In assessing an intimate relationship with regard to violence or abuse, it is important to clarify if there is any significant imbalance in the  “power and control” dynamics in the relationship in order to distinguish between “situational” or “expressive” violence or abuse, which is not intended to control the other partner, and ‘instrumental’ violence or abuse, which is used to control the other partner. In the latter situation, there may actually be little or no current physical violence.

What is the impact of abusive conflict on families?
The impact on families can be enormous. Regardless of the nature of abusive conflict, the non-abusing partner may suffer various physical, emotional or psychological illnesses, and even death in extreme situations. Seventy or more people die each year in New South Wales alone as a result of relationship violence. About 80% of the victims are women. Most murders are not premeditated, but are preceded by a gradually escalating cycle of violence, which did not necessarily begin with physical violence.
 Children who have witnessed abuse or violence at home may exhibit a range of symptoms including symptoms consistent with or associated with post-traumatic stress, eg anxiety, depression, bedwetting, nightmares, flashbacks, violent outbursts, poor sleep, poor appetite, inability to concentrate. Some of these children go on to abuse alcohol or other drugs or to be in abusive relationships as adults, either as victims or as abusers.

 What services do we offer to help people in high conflict or abusive relationships?
“Think Twice” offers a structured program for people who are or have been in relationships with any form of violence, with elements selected as appropriate from the following:
  individual counselling for both men and women who are abusing in their relationships
  more traditional couple counselling, where appropriate, with attention paid to the dynamics which
   support violence, or

  a structured couple program, where appropriate, after careful assessment of the nature of the violence
    in the relationship

  a group program for men who are abusing in their relationships
  a group program for women who are abusing in their relationships
  individual counselling where indicated, to address past trauma or associated current conditions,
    such as anxiety, depression or self-harming.  
                                        
            

Are women abusive too?
There certainly are relationships where women have controlling or abusive ways of behaving, and also relationships where these behaviours are mutual. There is much debate about the relative percentages
of men and women who are violent in relationships, but there is definitely significant evidence of the following:

  that both men and women use abuse in their relationships, and often it is mutual
  as many as one in three partner violence victims are men
  that men can be as seriously injured by female partners as women are by male partners, though they may be fewer in number
  that more women are killed by their partners or ex-partners than men, but men are still a significant minority of partner murder victims
  that men are just as likely as women to suffer in a variety of ways from partner abuse, with some similarities and some differences
  that children suffer similar negative effects from violence between their parents, regardless of which
   parent is the abusive one.

 

 So why have separate  groups for men and women?
Groups are separate because the causes, contributing factors and relationship dynamics are usually very different between women and men who are abusing in their relationships. This means that mixed groups are not as relevant or effective for all participants as separate groups for men and women.

 I’ve heard that some professionals believe couples counselling is not appropriate for relationships where there is violence. Why do you offer this?
Traditionally in this area the only response to violence in relationships was to offer support, counselling and groups for victims and group programs for those who were abusing. Victim services were directed towards women and abuser programs were directed towards men.
 
Not all violence is due to one partner wanting to dominate and control the other, as has been traditionally believed. In fact, this most probably only applies in a small number of relationships. Generally, most relationships with high level conflict show expressive or situational conflict rather than attempts to control or dominate. The integrated approach offered by “Think Twice!” recognises and accommodates this broader perspective. In addition, working only with the offending person does not recognise any entrenched behaviour by the other partner which is also having a negative effect on the relationship dynamics. While this behaviour is not considered to be a legitimate cause for violence, it is in the interest of both partners to address any behaviours that are not conducive to having a strong, supportive, respectful relationship. Working with both partners, frequently in different ways, also helps to integrate the work done with the offending person into the relationship. Careful structuring of individual and couple sessions facilitates the best possible outcome for the couple.

RECENT ARTICLES


Relationship Dances. Pursuers and Distancers. Part A. Pursuers
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Walking on Egg Shells Assessment


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