Maybe you never thought you’d find yourself in this situation: arrested on suspicion of domestic violence and facing possible criminal charges. In your mind, perhaps it was just an argument that got out of hand. Maybe this is the first time it’s happened. Or possibly it’s happened before. Maybe–heaven forbid–it points to a pattern of abuse. Of course, the first order of business is to navigate the legal issues surrounding your arrest and charges–but what about afterward? If you have a problem, what steps can you take toward treatment to ensure you don’t keep hurting the people you love?
In the State of California, if this is your first domestic violence offense, the first question about treatment might be answered for you. If you are convicted, you will likely be mandated to attend a state-approved Batterer’s Intervention Program (BIP) for the next year as a condition of probation. But there’s been some question about the overall effectiveness of these programs–they seem to work well for some, not so much for others. What if you avoid conviction and aren’t mandated to attend a BIP, but you know there’s still an issue? Or what if you want to take responsibility for your own recovery, whether or not you attend a BIP?
The good news is that you do have some options. The actual type of treatment you should choose will depend in part on your personal circumstances, your background, and any root issues that may be triggering your violent behavior. Let’s explore some of the treatment options available to you.
Since Batterer’s Intervention is the state’s first line of defense in treating abusers (and since you may be mandated to attend one, anyway), let’s begin here. Since 1994, California law has required anyone granted probation in domestic violence cases to complete a certified Batterer’s Intervention Program. This typically involves attending 52 weekly domestic violence classes that combine lectures, group discussions, and one-on-one counseling. Through a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, and other therapeutic approaches, participants are taught to identify triggers for violent behavior, develop empathy toward their victims, and learn techniques for anger management and resolving conflicts. As this approach draws from a variety of more specific treatments mentioned below, one might think of Batterer’s Intervention as a sort of introductory course into these treatments and techniques. For some, this approach is all that’s needed to prevent recurring violence, but some might need to hone in on certain parts of the program more deeply.
Anger Management Classes
Anger management programs are designed to help individuals learn to express anger in a healthier, more constructive way. These programs can benefit anyone who struggles with excessive or uncontrollable anger, not just those who have crossed the line into domestic violence. Anger management programs typically involve weekly group or individual therapy sessions over a set period, often several weeks to months. During these sessions, participants learn about the nature of anger, including recognizing its early signs and understanding its roots. They also learn strategies to manage their anger, such as relaxation techniques, cognitive restructuring (changing how they think about certain situations), problem-solving, assertive communication, and stress management.
Importantly, anger management programs do not aim to suppress or eliminate anger, which is an ordinary and sometimes necessary emotion. Instead, they aim to teach individuals to express their anger in a controlled, healthy, and socially acceptable manner.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that focuses on modifying thought patterns to change moods and behaviors. It’s based on the idea that negative actions or feelings result from current distorted beliefs or thoughts, not unconscious forces from the past. The therapy involves working with a mental health professional to identify harmful thought patterns and learn to approach situations in a new, more constructive way. It helps individuals recognize and challenge their destructive thoughts, replacing them with healthier beliefs and behaviors.
Group Therapy/Support Groups
Group therapy can be particularly effective for abusers as it allows individuals to share experiences, learn from others, and build a support network. It also offers a chance to practice new behaviors in a safe, nonjudgmental, and supportive environment. Group therapy is often recommended in tandem with other types of treatment.
Some abusers may have underlying psychological or mental health issues contributing to their violent behavior. If you find this to be the case, individual therapy can help you address these root issues with the idea that by doing so, the tendencies toward violence may be retrained more easily. Medication may be prescribed in conjunction with therapy in certain instances where a chemical imbalance may be affecting mental health.
Substance Abuse/Addiction Treatment
Many people’s tendency toward violence can be directly or indirectly related to an alcohol or drug abuse issue. If you have an addiction that is feeding into abusive behavior, addressing this addiction by entering a rehab treatment program may be an excellent first step in disrupting the cycle of domestic violence.
Choosing the right treatment program is a crucial step toward recovery. Selecting a program that fits your needs and aligns with your goals is important. Whatever type of treatment you choose, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Commitment to the process is vital. Change is hard and takes time, but with dedication and perseverance, it is possible to break the cycle of violence.
- Respect the accuser’s viewpoint. Part of recovery is understanding how your actions affect those you love.
- Take responsibility and move forward. Taking responsibility for your actions is the first step towards healing. Acknowledging your past mistakes and committing to change is a sign of strength, not weakness–and choosing treatment in and of itself is part of taking responsibility.
Remember that treatment is not a quick fix but a process toward long-term change. For the short term, if you’re facing criminal charges related to domestic violence in Los Angeles, you need compassionate legal counsel to help you navigate the process. Call our offices today to schedule a consultation.