“Will counselling help?”

by Annie Kaszina on April 6, 2011

Abused women don’t give up easily on a bad relationship or an abusive man. Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by your mancould have been written for them.

For as long as they hope the last glimmer of life and hope is still there, they are prepared to give the relationship one more try.

Which is where the question: “Will counselling help?” comes in.  Usually, abused women want two things from coaching:

a)      Ideally, they want a way of transforming their abusive partner.  They hope that, if they can get him in front of a counsellor, he will see the light, admit the error of his ways, shed his Beast persona and morph into their fairy tale prince…  Or, at least, become a reasonably regular, nice enough, only moderately thoughtless sort of partner…

b)     When all else fails – as it always does in these cases – they want to know how to cope better in the relationship they have.  Their fall back position (with apologies to Crosby, Stills & Nash) is: “If you can’t be in the relationship you’d love, love the one you’re in.”  Maybe they can let go of the yearning for a good relationship, and be at peace with having a relationship that is – allegedly – good enough for them.

If they can’t transform the man and the relationship, maybe they can learn some womanly/wifely skills so they can manage their abuser’s moods better, and make the best of a bad job.

Sad to say, in most cases counselling will not work.  Any more than psychotherapy works.

Counselling – and “talking therapies” generally – tend not to be a good way to resolve the problems that abused women bring to the consulting room.

Why not?

Most “talking therapists” are not expert in recognizing and understanding the specific dynamics of abusive relationships.

As you may well have learnt to your cost, a skilled manipulator (aka “head-worker”) will be far more persuasive than a distressed, vulnerable woman whose self-worth has hit rock bottom.

You can expect his lies will be clearer, more coherent and more convincing than your halting, painful truths.

This often means that the abusive partner does far better enlisting the sympathy of the counsellor, or therapist, than you do.

Not that it should be too surprising.  In an abusive relationship you become used to your voice being disregarded, your point of view ridiculed, and your feelings dismissed.  When that happens in the counsellor’s, or therapist’s, office – and it often does – you feel even more helpless and powerless.

Because counsellors etc. often don’t understand what you are going through, and how your independence has been systematically dismantled, they can’t make sense of your state of paralysis.

They can’t see why you can’t “pull yourself together” enough to take some constructive action, like walking away from your abuser.

Of course, they are absolutely right that, in the end, you have to help yourself; nobody else can do it for you.

But often they don’t know how to support, and hold you emotionally, until you can start helping yourself.  They don’t understand how to help you build your inner belief and motivate you to take the baby steps you need to take.

They don’t understand the process of getting you to move forward.

And, because they don’t understand, they can become disheartened by your failure to move forward.

When that happens, their frustration is their issue.  But you are made to feel it is about you; and that becomes another humiliation for you to bear.

(It’s my belief that when a therapist, or coach, fails to help you that is because of their own shortcomings.  It is our role, and our commitment, to speak to you in such a way that you will be empowered to move forward with your recovery and your life.)

And then there is the tendency to focus on old issues.

Do you really need to focus on old painful issues, or do you need to move on?

 

In order to move on, you need to understand your old issues, and resolve your old feelings.

You need to get out of thinking in that old dysfunctional manner.

The single most damaging thing you can possibly do is to keep reliving old hurts in the present.

And you have to find a way out of the prison of asking yourself questions like: “How could he…?”  “Is it my fault?”  and “Will he ever change?”

You HAVE TO internalize the answers and move on.

And you can.

You can, when you have someone who can explain it to you, respectfully, and empathetically, in a way that resonates with you.

You can, when you have someone who understands exactly what is blocking you and can show you how to remove the blocks.

You can, when you have someone who can help you to remove the scales from your eyes, so that you finally see your abusive partner for who he is.

You can, when you have the unconditional support of someone who is totally committed to helping you create for yourself the happiness and wonderful life you deserve.

This last week I’ve received a (gobsmacking) number of emails from clients who  said:

“You might just have saved my life”.

When they signed up to work with me, they didn’t even believe it could help, they just knew they’d reached the very end of the line.

Working with me, they were able to pension off the old negativity, laugh at their fears, and start to create the life they’d stopped daring to imagine, because their abuser had trampled their dreams to dust.

They could embark on much braver, happier, more assertive lives than they would ever have imagined possible.

You can, too.

In the next couple of days, I’m going to be making you a fantastic offer, to help you move into your braver, happier, more assertive life.

So keep an eye on your Inbox

Warm wishes for your recovery,

Annie

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