Families and Domestic Violence

Module Sections:

Using Strategies and Techniques

Working with the Entire Family

Home based family therapists often see the victim and the perpetrator as well as the children. Responding appropriately to domestic violence in the family should be part of good home-based family therapy. When necessary, provide continuous and long-term non-judgmental care and support to families.

Previous sections have indicated that there is a close association between partners involved in violence and child abuse. It is, therefore, important to consider the following:

  • Consider the impact of abuse on the children from the adult’s point of view
  • Provide confidential support and referral for the children and let them know that they do not have to blame themselves
  • Verify the children’s safety and support and provide aids for parents to ensure the safety of their children
  • Studies show that children respond differently to domestic violence (Spears, 2000). Home-based family therapists should be wary of the assumption that witnessing domestic violence immediately requires child protection services. However, in cases where parents have not been able to improve the safety of their children, it is imperative to report the situation to Child Protection Services.

When working with couples in the home, therapists should always seek permission from the victim before confronting the perpetrator. Joint counseling should be offered when necessary. Recommendations from a panel of experts (Hegarty, Taft, & Feder, 2008) suggest that: moving from general questions such as, “how are things at home?” to specific questions such as “how does your wife /partner/children respond when you shout or hit them?” is helpful.

Always acknowledge the courage of the victim if she discloses the violence and offer support if she is willing to work with you. If you are not comfortable working with the family or couple refer them to another therapist who will help them.

Audio Companion: Families and Domestic Violence