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Section 12
Support Versus Therapy

Question 12 | Answer Booklet | Table of Contents

The Wilder women’s groups are typically facilitated by professional, credentialed staff who have bachelor’s or master’s degrees. The majority of our staff have been educated and trained in psychology, social work, counseling, women’s studies, or similar disciplines. We have also had staff with no degrees but with life experiences and personal strengths that made them a valued resource to our participants. Since the start of the program, we have also used student interns from the local colleges, community volunteers, and other professionals.

Many ideas exist about the issue of counseling versus therapy for battered women. Some positions on this issue follow.

One position suggests that when women who have been abused are told they need counseling, therapy, or treatment, the implication is that there is something wrong with them. Saying women need counseling places blame or responsibility on the woman for the man’s violence; it suggests that if the woman would change her behavior, she would stop being abused. Certainly this position warrants serious consideration. The last thing that anyone working with women who have been abused would want to perpetuate is the myth that the victim has something to do with her partner’s abuse.

A second position suggests that women who seek counseling for being victims of male battering may be (and have been) labeled with a clinical mental health diagnosis or other stigmatizing labels, which can have potentially serious ramifications. For example, in some instances a woman may not be eligible for life or medical insurance if she has had a certain diagnosis related to being abused. One can easily see how a woman may be re-victimized for a crime that has been committed against her.

Women who have been battered and have sought counseling have also had to defend themselves in the courts. Perpetrators have used the courts and legal counsel to question the stability or suitability of the woman who has received professional psychiatric or therapeutic assistance. It has also been suggested that the woman has a weakness or deficiency in her character, as evidenced by her seeking counseling.

There have also been cases in which the woman’s parenting or coping skills are questioned because she has received counseling. The children are usually caught in the middle in these cases. The courts may often be unaware or unenlightened about the extent of the violence that has occurred.

Grass Roots Versus Professional Approaches
Another issue has been a “grass-roots” versus a “professional” approach toward serving battered women. The discussion revolves around who is more qualified or knowledgeable to work with victims of abuse.

Yet another debate is what services should receive emphasis: shelter and advocacy or counseling and therapy.

Unfortunately, many of these discussions have pitted women against women, “grass-roots” women advocates against women who are “professional” counselors and therapists. The outcome of these discussions is unknown. Hopefully the listening and learning will continue, and battered women will reap the rewards of this difficult work.
- Journey Beyond Abuse. Fischer, Kay-Laurel & Michael F. McGrane. Amherst H. Wilder Foundation: Saint Paul. 1997.

Personal Reflection Exercise #6
The preceding section discussed support versus therapy for battered women. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

QUESTION 12
What drawback is there to suggesting a battered woman seek counseling? To select and enter your answer go to Answer Booklet.


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Section 13
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