Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Enhancing Treatment Compliance among Male Batterers: Motivators to Get Them in the Door and Keep Them in the Room

Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Enhancing Treatment Compliance among Male Batterers: Motivators to Get Them in the Door and Keep Them in the Room

Article excerpt

A clinical focus on what motivates batterers to enter counseling might improve the prognosis for their treatment compliance. We discuss motivators to get them in the door (treatment engagement) and keep them in the room (treatment compliance). Once they are invested in the therapeutic process, they might successfully break their pattern of abuse, learn new coping skills, and adopt healthy behaviors to sustain successful, nonviolent intimate relationships.


Battering, interchangeably called domestic violence, family violence, and intimate partner violence (IPV), is defined by James and Gilliland (2005) as any form of physical violence perpetrated by one partner in a romantic relationship against the other. The abuse may be physical, emotional, sexual, or a combination, with the abuser using violence, threats of violence, and/or verbal degradation to resolve a conflict and establish power and control over a vulnerable partner (McLeod, Muldoon, & Hays, 2010). Battering occurs in all socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and religious groups and is afflicted by men and women in heterosexual, gay, and lesbian relationships. Because our focus is on the male batterer in heterosexual relationships, we use female referents for the victim and male for the batterer.

Arias, Dankwort, Douglas, Dutton, and Stein (2002) have estimated that annually 1.5 million women become victims of battering by an intimate partner. Women are estimated to represent as high as 95% of victims (McLeod et al., 2010; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000); women in oppressed groups (e. g., low socioeconomic status, racial/ethnic minorities, those with disabilities, lesbians, immigrants, and refugees) are at high risk for domestic violence due to disadvantaged social positions rooted in homophobia, racism, and sexism (Fiduccia & Wolfe, 1999; McLeod et al., 2010; Sokoloff & Dupont, 2005). Finally, financial losses related to battering are estimated to be about $150 million a year, with property loss accounting for about 44%, medical expenses about 40%, and lost wages about 16% (Arias et al., 2002; Greenfield, Rand, & Craven, 1998).

In her seminal research with women, Walker (1979) concluded that abusive relationships move through three stages: the tension-building stage is followed by the battering incident and culminates with the batterer apologizing in an attempt to appease the partner to remain in the relationship, not seek medical assistance, and not report the incident to the police or to her support system. This cycle repeats itself, sometimes in the presence of children, whose observations may in some families incite an intergenerational pattern of abuse because "people learn violence from many sources ... primarily from parents and guardians" (McLeod et al., 2010, p. 159).

What constitutes a "domestic violence" incident according to the law differs by state. Most state definitions require that perpetrator and victim be current or former spouses, living together, or bearing a child together (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence [Facts], n.d.). However, differences in state laws regarding the definition of and response to domestic violence affect both the consequences for and treatment options of batterers and the safety and treatment options of victims. Moreover, differences in state laws, in conjunction with the batterer's threats or pleas for the victim to not report the incident, seek medical assistance, or seek safety for herself and her children, account for significant under-reporting as well as inaccurate incidence and prevalence rates (McLeod et al., 2010).

For those batterers who are apprehended, what interventions are available? Are they effective in reducing battering?


Batterer intervention programs (BIPs) are a well-established therapeutic service for men who batter women and are the current treatment of choice (Arias et al. …

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