Counseling Counters Spouse Abuse Men Learn Early Signs of Trouble

Article excerpt

Almost all of the men who arrive for counseling in domestic violence programs come under an ultimatum from a judge or partner.

Group counseling for men is relatively new. In St. Clair County, for example, judges began ordering counseling for abusers in 1992. Initially, many men agreed to counseling as a sentencing alternative, then simply didn't show up. Later, the courts added probation officers to enforce attendance.

Missouri started such programs several years earlier. In both states, judges have fueled the growth of counseling programs by offering it as an alternative to jail or promising to expunge an abuser's record if he completes a program.

Who are these men?

"The profile of a batterer is the profile of a normative American male," says Jon Cohen, a staff member of the area's two largest programs for abusive men.

Traditional psychologists offer one-on-one and group counseling. Their methods often try to identify the underlying emotional needs that motivate an unacceptable behavior.

But counseling services like RAVEN in St. Louis and the Provident Counseling program in Fairview Heights, Men Ending Domestic Violence, take another approach.

Men meet weekly in groups of 12 to 15 for what program coordinators described more as education than counseling. The sessions aim to teach men to look at their behavior and to choose alternatives to violence.

Those programs emerge from an underlying belief that domestic violence reflects a patriarchal, male-superior society. Simply stated, men abuse because they want to be in control, because control brings advantages and because society does little or nothing to stop abusers.

RAVEN teaches abusers to recognize the spectrum of tools they use to dominate. That can range from seemingly benign behaviors such as a glaring look, "the silent treatment" or blocking a doorway, to the other extreme - physical force, sexual assault and extreme emotional duress. …