Counseling For Domestic Violence Survivors

Domestic violence is a weighty public health problem not only in the United States but globally. The present study has explored theoretically integrated methodologies to counseling domestic violence survivors. Counseling is one of the core services in many of the DV victim service programs. Counseling for domestic survivor victims primarily involves assisting the victim to recuperate from their sense of control and power. Researchers and scholars have developed several approaches to therapy that professional counselors can adopt to promote the wellbeing of DV survivors holistically. This research looks into cognitive-behavioral therapy, art therapy, and empowerment-based therapy as therapy approaches for DV survivors. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is most effective for DV survivors who have developed psychological problems, including PTSD, depression, and anxiety, helping them develop coping skills. Art therapy helps the victims to develop self-soothing and coping skills, while empowerment-based therapy promotes opportunities for the survivors to control themselves.

Counseling For Domestic Violence (DV) Survivors

Domestic violence is a significant public health problem. On average, about 20 people in the United States are physically abused by inmate partners every one minute, according to the statistics by the “National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.” Domestic violence hotlines across the United States receive over 20,000 calls on a typical day. About 10 million men and women in the US report physical violence annually, caused by either the present or the previous intimate partner, according to a survey by the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) in a study conducted since 2011 (Black et al. 2011). Besides, about 22.3% (1 in 5) women and 14.4% (1in 7) report severe physical violence caused by their partner during their lives, translating to about 29 million and 16 million in US women and men. The report by the NISVS further shows that about 8.8% or one in every eleven women have been raped at some point in their lives by their current or previous partners, about 9% of women and 2.5% of men in the United States have been stalked by their lovers at one point in life. The CDC reports that about 16% of women and 7% have been sexually abused by their partners (Breiding et al., 2015). The data represent only the cases reported by the situation can even be worse when we include the data young people and children who are also victims of domestic violence, hence the need for counseling for domestic violence survivors. The presented study explores the theoretically integrated methodologies to counseling domestic violence survivors.

Counseling is one of the core services in many of the DV victim service programs. The American Counseling Association (ACA) defines counseling as “a professional relationship empowering different categories of individuals, families, and groups to achieve mental health, wellness, and career goals” (Shen, 2011, p 3). Counseling for domestic survivor victims primarily involves assisting the victim to recuperate from their sense of control and power. The victims learn fundamental behavioral and emotional reactions to domestic abuse. The primary goal of any counseling program for victims of domestic violence is to relieve the distress that goes together with victimization, such as anxiety, depression, shame, guilt or worry, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and improve the wellbeing and sense of self of domestic violence survivors (Shen, 2011). Counseling services for DV survivors within the counseling programs integrate several therapeutic approaches, including cognitive-behavioral, art therapy, and empowerment-based styles designed to the individual survivors’ desires and individual needs (Shen, 2011). Such can be offered in groups, for an individual, or a combination of both settings.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

            Cognitive-behavioral therapy has proven effective for domestic violence survivor victims who developed depression and posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD).  CBT can be classified into cognitive restructuring and coping skills. Cognitive restructuring focuses on the victim’s thoughts and underlying beliefs and helps to challenge the encountered maladaptive thought configurations. The coping skills intervention helps identify and change the behaviors and cognitions that may escalate the adverse external events. The coping skills therapy is adopted for problems external to the victims and helps to reduce magnitudes of undesirable external events (Habigzang et al., 2018). CBT also integrates problem‐solving therapies, combining the coping skills and cognitive restructuring interventions to alter the internal thought arrangements and optimize reactions to external adverse events. The three classes for treatment have varying targets for change, explaining the diverse psychological interventions for victims of domestic violence based on cognitive-behavioral principles (Deblinger, Pollio & Dorsey, 2016). The psychological intervention approach helps change maladaptive thoughts, reducing the cognitive disorders, including stress and anxiety associated with domestic violence victimization. 

            The cognitive part embraces a learning or thinking style as part of the therapy imparted to the client. The victims are taught different coping mechanisms, which they must implement at home and in their everyday activities. The victim feeds the new knowledge into their brain through repetition, becoming a habit or automatic behavior. CBT takes the school approach to learning where the client is taught new skills and information, absorb and apply them in everyday life. Even though the process is enduring and repetitive, researchers have argued that visible progress is guaranteed when victims stick to therapy (Deblinger, Pollio & Dorsey, 2016). The cognitive-behavioral approach asserts that abnormality often stretches from defensive cognition concerning others, oneself, and the world due to cognitive distortions or shortage. As a result, one may begin to process things inaccurately. The thoughts can cause distortions in a manner that makes a person behave differently. As mentioned earlier, domestic violence is linked to PTSD, anxiety, and depression, which significantly impact mental health. For instance, a partner may cogitate about being aggravated into doing or saying something upsetting and justify such behavior due to the partner’s actions (Ciccarelli, Griffiths, Nigro & Cosenza, 2017). Many distortions happen in an abusive relationship, including denial, overreactions, minimization, and blames.

free essay typer



 ABC Technique of Rational Beliefs

            ABC Technique of Rational Beliefs developed by Albert Ellis (1957) explains how victims of domestic violence develop irrational cognitive behaviors. It has been used significantly in group and individual counseling to help the therapist understand the development of irrational beliefs among the victims. According to the ABC theory, there are three processes by which people develop irrational beliefs. The first process is an objective situation or activating event. Such include an event that leads to negative dysfunctional thinking or high emotional response of the victims—beliefs. During this step, the client is guided to recognize and write down the adverse event or negative thought. The consequence is the dysfunctional behaviors and distressing or negative feelings after that (Rouzbeh et al., 2018).

 The negative feeling in the second step help to create a connection between the situation and distressing thoughts. The third level of the theory describes the negative thoughts or emotions the clients feel are as a result of the first level, anxiety, anger, and so on. According to Ellis, it is not the activating events (A) that leads to negative behavioral and emotional consequence (C). It is the way the victims interpret the events unrealistically that leads to irrational beliefs (B), helping to cause adverse effects (C) (Bennett & Turner, 2017). During a counseling session, the irrational beliefs are identified, and the therapist works with the victim to challenge the negative thoughts based on the evidence from the victim’s experience. The therapist reframes or reinterprets the negative reviews in a more realistic manner or faction, helping the client develop rational beliefs and positive coping skills (Bennett & Turner, 2017). The whole process’s overall aim as part of the CBT is to readjust automatic behaviors and thoughts, improve the victims’ moods, and foster positive thoughts and a greater sense of wellbeing.

Art Therapy

Besides cognitive behavioral therapy, therapists for domestic violence survivors can also adopt art therapy. Art therapy is effective for helping individuals to cope with symptoms emanating from an array of emotional and mental disorders resulting from victimization from and exposure to domestic violence (Mills & Kellington, 2012). Art therapy can be defined as the application of creative activities associated with visual arts to enhance the patient’s mental, physical, spiritual, and cognitive wellbeing. In the case of DV survivors, the art therapy approach is applied to allow the victims to express their emotions using visual arts and other artistic models (Bird, 2018). The aim is to help the patient develop self-soothing and coping skills either consciously or unconsciously via intrinsic sensory beneficial results of taking part in the creative process.

Counselors should consider this therapeutic approach as it is expansive and versatile. Art therapy aids in the improvement of emotional expression and wellbeing, mental and even mental development for a range of diagnoses, and can also be an effective therapeutic approach for victims of survivors of DV. Research has revealed that sensory benefits associated with most art therapy methods can stimulate the middle brain, helping in emotional regulation and self-soothing (Bird, 2018). Developing calming skills via learning and taking part in art therapy approaches with aid in such pursuit is an irreplaceable practice with survivors of abuse or domestic violence. Professional counselors widely adopt two primary facets of art therapy: art as psychotherapy and treatment. The art as therapy concept is where the process of developing art is considered therapeutic in itself. Research shows that using any artistic medium, paints, charcoal, or clay can generate an intensive healing property by working with any part of the body, hands, or feet. Art can calm the artist and produce a sense of peace irrespective of actively creating the masterpiece or merely enjoying manipulating and using the artistic medium (Mills & Kellington, 2012). The aim is not to make the final product, rather having the victim engaged in the use or manipulation of the artistic medium, spreading the paint around the canvas, or just getting messy with the charcoal, paints, clay is enough to help the victim feel released from the pain or negative thoughts (Bird, 2018).


The therapist can also apply art as psychotherapy, focusing on the final product of the artistic activity, which can be drawing, sculptures, or paintings, and the interpretation of the symbolic meanings of the artworks. The approach is perfect for victims that cannot express themselves verbally. It can be children or disabled persons who are victims of abuse or domestic violence (Mills & Kellington, 2012). Children and disabled persons often express themselves through art even without realizing that they are doing so. Art can effectively convey ideas or emotions and communicate. The approaches, colors, and the medium used together with places, people, and objects portrayed can manner in which they are displayed can speak so many things about the artist’s experience, which the therapist can use to design a therapy strategy. Art provides insight into the artist’s life, allowing the therapist to understand challenges and conflicts the victim is striving to cope with (Mills & Kellington, 2012). By interpreting the symbols depicted in the artwork, the therapist can gain better insight into the client’s issue and understand how to help the client.

Empowerment-Based Therapy

Lastly, professional counselors can also implement an empowerment-based therapy approach for victims of DV. Empowerment-based therapy theory originates from social psychology and aims to promote individuals’ opportunity to control their lives. Psychological empowerment is an individual-level analysis integrating proactive approaches to life, personal control, and community engagement. Domestic violence has a destructive impact on an individual’s life and can impact mental and somatic wellbeing. As discussed earlier, people who experience DV occasionally develop severe psychological problems, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and even alcohol abuse. Women are more impact than men. The aim of empowerment interventions for DV survivors is to address all the levels of the problem, individual, social and organizational. At the individual level, the therapist should focus on specific needs of DV survivors, including promoting self-management, coping skills and knowledge, wellbeing, and social inclusion in day-to-day life (Perez, Johnson & Wright, 2012). A personalized empowerment therapy equips the victim with the instrument of self-determination, strengthens self-esteem and competency awareness. The therapists engage mainly in activities such as helping the survivors develop a safety plan, counseling trauma victims, and connecting them to desired social support systems, including groups of people with similar issues (Menon & Allen, 2021). As mentioned earlier, the primary aim of empowerment-based therapy is to promote the opportunity for the survivors to control their lives.

Domestic violence is a significant public health problem that necessitates counseling. The present study has explored theoretically integrated methodologies to counseling domestic violence survivors. Counseling program for victims of DV helps to relieve the distress that goes together with victimization, such as anxiety, depression, shame, guilt, or worry. Several approaches exist that therapists can adopt that for DV survivors, including cognitive behavioral therapy, art therapy, and empowerment-based therapy.