Why is couples therapy contraindicated when there is abuse?
Couples therapy is contraindicated when there is abuse because couples therapy can be used as an arena for continued abuse.
Abuse can happen in your office because there is no safety for the survivor or victim partner to share honestly, and so you might be without assessing kind of collaborating with that abuse. The other reason it is contraindicated is that both partners need to be able and willing to accept responsibility for their actions and make changes. In addition, an abusive partner can gain language and a professional opinion about the victim partner, within couples therapy. Ultimately the abuser can use the therapist’s words and diagnoses in a family court situation when seeking custody.
Last, abuse is not a relationship problem, therefore it should not be fixed within couples therapy.
This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the webinar, The Thin Line: Assessing for Domestic Violence in Couples Therapy, presented by Sybil Cummin, MA, LPC, ACS.