The Importance Of Domestic Violence Counseling

Updated October 7, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Content/Trigger Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include sexual assault & violence which could potentially be triggering. If you or someone you know is or may be experiencing abuse, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, available 24/7, at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. Live chat is also available on the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.

Domestic violence is a major problem in countries around the world. In the United States, nearly 20 people per minute are abused by a domestic partner—more than 10 million people per year.

Though the statistics demonstrate otherwise, domestic abuse can be a very isolating experience. If you have experienced this abuse, you should never feel ashamed for wanting to keep your experience private. Still, you can take comfort in knowing that you are not alone—far from it.

Don't Hesitate To Ask For Help - BetterHelp Counselors Are Here For You

It is completely understandable for someone who has been through domestic violence to be hesitant to seek help. But domestic violence counseling can be a crucial factor in emotionally recovering from your domestic violence experience.

Forms Of Domestic Abuse

Not all domestic abuse is the same. You are the only person who knows your personal experience, and whether anything that goes on in your relationship is abuse. In general, most domestic violence falls into one of the following categories, and because of the subject matter, it’s sometimes called intimate partner violence, and according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s a major public health concern that can have many forms. Online therapy is safe, reliable resource for you to discuss and work through the abuse you are facing.

Physical Abuse: This is probably what most people think of when they hear the words "domestic violence." It is the use of physical force that injures the other person or puts them at risk of becoming injured. Although the action itself is physical, the abuse can be emotionally rooted and certainly negatively impacts feelings and emotions. While this what usually comes to mind when domestic violence is talked about, there are other forms that can be just as important and sometimes physical violence isn’t always present.

Verbal Abuse:Using words to insult, disrespect, embarrass, or otherwise hurt the other person, either in private or public. It can be difficult to determine whether someone is just being "mean," or if what is happening is abuse. Many people never report or seek counseling for verbal abuse from their intimate partner because they may not even realize it is happening. Only you can know for sure whether a partner's words are abusive. If you ever suspect that they may be, trust your gut and seek help because many domestic violence cases will include this type of abuse.

Sexual Abuse:This is another form of abuse that can be difficult for the abused person even to identify. It is especially confusing when partners are already sexually active, and have had or are presently having consensual sexual intercourse. Sexual abuse involves forcing another person to do anything sexual, from touching to intercourse. If the action is unwanted by one person and they are forced into it, it is sexual assault and abuse regardless if it’s with an intimate partner. Sexual violence or abuse often occurs in tandem with another type of abuse, especially physical abuse.

Financial Abuse:Financial or economic abuse is one of the lesser known forms of abuse, but that does not make it any less important. Financial abuse involves withholding of money from someone else, often an intimate partner, or using that person's name or personal information to spend their money and possibly cause them to accrue debt. This may cause the person to feel powerless or have to rely on the abuser for financial support, putting the abuser in a greater position of power in the relationship. These kinds of controlling behaviors can restrict the abused person from feeling that they can get out of an unhealthy relationship, and fuels the cycle of abuse.

Emotional Abuse:Emotional abuse can involve a combination of any of the other types of abuse. The abuser treats a person in such a way that it reduces their self-confidence and gives the abuser more control over the other person. The abuser will use highly manipulative tactics that may cause the other person to feel guilty, or as though they somehow deserve the abuse. Most domestic violence cases, but not all, will include some form of emotional abuse because it helps abusers stay in control.

Whatever the form of abuse may be, the most important thing to remember is that it is not your fault. Any domestic violence case is solely the fault of the abuser, never the person whom they abuse.

Signs Of Domestic Abuse

It can be hard to tell if someone is in an abusive relationship from an outside perspective. Sometimes the abused person in the relationship is not even fully aware of the fact that their partner's behavior is abusive and committing intimate partner violence. While every situation is different, certain warning signs indicate that you or someone you love may be in an abusive relationship, and/or at risk for—or are already dealing with—domestic violence. Rest assured, a healthy relationship shouldn’t have these warning signs, which can include:

Isolation: An abuser will want to keep the person they are abusing isolated from other people, including close friends and family. This keeps the person more dependent on the abuser, as they will become the main person in their life. It allows the abuser to gain more control and power over the person they abuse.

Critical Behavior:The abuser will often put down the person they abuse to lower their self-confidence, and make them feel powerless. It may start as backhanded comments that do not seem bad on their own, but are slowly making the person feel more self-conscious and reliant on their abuser. Over time, the critical behavior is likely to escalate, and can take the form of emotional abuse.

Invading Privacy:The abuser will try to take away the other person's sense of privacy and identity. They may read their text messages and emails, or listen in on their phone calls.

There are many other signs of abuse, and certain isolated instances of these behaviors do not always point to a domestic violence case. But they do often indicate current or future domestic violence, especially if a partner demonstrates a pattern of this kind of behavior. If you have noticed these behaviors in your intimate partner, or notice signs of them in a friend or loved one's relationship, it may be a sign of domestic violence.

Never be afraid to ask for help, or to bring up the topic of domestic violence with a friend who you are concerned for. It is always better to say something, even if the conversation does not get very far, than to watch a friend suffer silently.

The Domestic Violence Cycle

No two cases of domestic violence are the same. But many abusive situations among partners tend to follow a similar cycle (though not all of them do). The standard cycle of domestic violence is as follows:

Tension Building Phase:During this initial phase of the domestic violence cycle, tension begins to build, and a person may feel as though they need to "walk on eggshells" around their intimate partner. Depending on the situation, the tension building phase may only last for a few hours, or it can drag on for several months. The longer the phase lasts, the more anxious a person may feel, as they know that a "blow up" is inevitable but are not sure when it is coming.

Abusive Incident:This is the point at which the tension finally reaches its breaking point and the abuser snaps and inflicts violence upon the other person. Depending on the type of abuse, the incident may involve physical violence, sexual abuse, or harmful words or threats. In cases of financial abuse, it may involve restricting a partner's to finances, or using their identity to steal or spend money on their accounts.

Honeymoon Phase: After the abusive incidents, the abuser may make an effort to “make up” for their violent or abusive behavior. To do this, they may buy the person they abused gifts, be extra caring and thoughtful towards them, or otherwise try to show that they are "sorry" for the abuse, and try to get the person to trust them and view them favorably again. Often this includes empty promises that the domestic violence will never happen again, or that they have changed.

Following the apologies or gifts, the relationship may experience a period of relative peace and stability. The abused person may believe that the abuser truly has changed, and abuse will not happen again. But, in most abusive relationships, the honeymoon phase is followed by yet another tension building phase, and the domestic violence cycle begins again.

Don't Hesitate To Ask For Help - BetterHelp Counselors Are Here For You

Not all abusive relationships even have a honeymoon phase. Some abusers move on to the next tension building phase immediately following an abusive incident. Even if the abuser does promise to change, in most cases of domestic violence, this does not happen. Most domestic violence cases end up repeating over and over. For most people, the only way to end the cycle of abuse is for the abused person to leave the relationship.

The Importance Of Counseling

There is nothing that can mentally prepare anyone for the physical and mental outcomes of domestic violence. Abusive relationships are notoriously difficult for an abused person to leave, and even once they do, many people struggle with depression, anxiety, stress or general emotional distress. Some people even experience PTSD following domestic violence and this can make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships down the road without treatment.

Domestic violence counseling sessions can play an invaluable role in helping people overcome an abusive situation. Having domestic counseling services readily available can benefit people by making individuals in abusive relationships feel more confident about leaving an abusive partner. Support from professional clinical counselors can make all the difference in whether or not someone leaves an abusive relationship, as well as the outcome once they do. For example, they will learn how to cope with their current situation, build self esteem, and also learn about what healthy relationships look like.

If you suspect that a friend or loved one may be in an abusive relationship, do not hesitate to bring it up with them or a counselor. It is better to take the risk and bring it up, even though it may feel uncomfortable, than to stand by and do nothing. If you are dealing with domestic violence yourself, it can be extremely difficult to tell anyone about the situation. Start by calling a domestic violence advocate group like the national domestic violence hotline and then reach out to a counselor. Taking the first step to get out of an abusive relationship and start moving in the right direction can be very scary and hard, but it is more than worth it and will be important for pursuing new relationships in the future.

Types Of Domestic Violence Services

Different people experiencing domestic violence will need different types of support to get out of an abusive situation and ultimately overcome the emotional weight that accompanies domestic violence. There are multiple types of counseling that can benefit someone who has lived with domestic abuse.

These can all be especially useful for someone who is overcoming domestic violence, as the healing process can be unpredictable and variable. Of course, in-person therapy can also be very helpful for anyone reeling from domestic violence.

Safe Houses: In cases of severe domestic violence, a person may choose or be instructed to spend time living in a safe house. Safe houses have policies in place to people from domestic abuse, and help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, recover from the experience. The location must be kept secret to prevent the abuser from finding the house, and no alcohol or drugs are allowed on the premises so that people cannot rely on self-medicating in the wake of domestic violence. Though it may be tough at first, this is highly beneficial for the person's recovery and mental health in the long run and can pave the way to forming healthy relationships in the future.

Domestic Violence Hotlines:Hotlines are not a long-term solution for someone living with domestic abuse, but can be an excellent first step in the wake of domestic violence. Domestic violence advocate groups, like the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the National Domestic Violence Hotline and their operators, can direct a person to the services they need, provide short-term advice, or help them out of acute situations. The national domestic violence hotline accepts calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The number is 800-799-SAFE (7233). At the The National Domestic Violence Hotline webpage linked above, you can find additional information that can help you identify domestic violence and abuse and start taking steps to begin safety planning and also the reasons why you should seek support from a domestic violence counselor.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline Is Also Toll-free, Meaning That All Survivors Can Take The First Step To Getting Support And Escape Violent Behavior In Their Lives.

Support Groups:In addition to resources like the National Domestic Violence Hotline, you can also join support groups for free, where you can connect with other individuals who have relatable experiences. Your domestic violence experiences are unique to you, but having other people around who are in or have been in similar situations as you, can give you a sense of solidarity and the encouragement you need to overcome domestic violence.

Online Counseling:Online therapy and counseling is a great tool for people living with a variety of conditions or healing from different experiences, including domestic violence. Just like in-person therapy, online counseling is conducted by licensed therapists and counselors who are accredited by their respective licensure board and also trained by the American Counseling Association. But unlike traditional therapy, you will have the freedom to message your therapist at any time of the day, rather than having to wait for a set appointment time.

Online Domestic Violence Counseling Through BetterHelp

Online therapy is a proven method of dealing with many issues related to domestic violence, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a comprehensive article published by the World Psychiatric Association, the effectiveness of internet-based therapy was examined. The study includes a number of different trials, finding that online therapy is a useful tool for treating symptoms stemming from varied mental health issues. The study focuses on internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help reframe negative thoughts associated with events and behaviors that survivors of domestic violence struggle with. For those who are angry, confused, scared, or experiencing other strong emotions related to domestic abuse, online therapy can help domestic violence survivors sort through those complicated feelings—and serve as a safe space on the road to recovery. 

As discussed above, if you or someone you know has experienced, or is currently experiencing abuse, online resources can be a lifeline and can get you connected to domestic violence counselors as soon as possible and can help you move forward and even learn how to trust people again and form healthy relationships. A BetterHelp therapist can discreetly guide you through treatments and sessions, so that you can begin to heal privately. Your therapy plan will only ever be between you and your counselor. You will have the option of reaching out to your therapist any time, day or night, and they will get back to you as soon as possible. Read below for reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from those who have dealt with similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

“I have been working with Terra for close to a month. I have seen therapists before and my past trauma had been hard for them to handle. I found myself having to water down my past which delayed my healing and working through my past. Terra lets me vent however much I’m comfortable and doesn’t seem to be offended or disturbed by the things I’ve been through. This has helped me to recognize and see that maybe I will be able to work through my traumas and be able to not have them affect my future the way they have been! I’m grateful for her and her very caring and listening nature. She also isn’t just a “that sounds hard!” Type therapist, I like that she gives me tips and tricks to better work through my issues in and out of sessions!” 

“Larry was great at holding space for me to talk about the trauma I experienced from domestic violence and stalking. He was also sensitive to the fact that it was a LGBTQ relationship. I highly recommend Larry to anyone who needs to work through trauma or abusive relationships.” 

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