Response-Based Practice With Perpetrators of Family Violence and Abuse

Gillian Weaver-Dunlop, Cindy Ogden, & Anita Harder

     Traditional effect-based approaches to therapeutic work with men who have abused others often attempt to intervene by correcting personal deficits assumed to be causing the violence. This tends to not only create a hierarchical counselling relationship but can inadvertently excuse abusive actions. In this presentation, we outline a response-based alternative that emphasizes questions of choice, agency and volition within a collaborative therapeutic relationship. Rather than imposing external corrections, we pay attention to how men describe their abusive acts and position themselves as agents of those acts as we work toward supporting them in their own acts of self-correction.

    Using case examples, we will also discuss the practical applications of response-based work with men who are abusive. We will demonstrate how therapeutic conversations can create safety and respect in the counselling relationship, highlight client agency, make therapeutic use of perpetrators' excuses, while  emphasizing their choices and volition. Finally, since working with men's partners is an integral part of response-based work with perpetrators, this presentation will also briefly touch on how our work with the men’s partners enhances, and at times, guides the work we do with the men.