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What do therapists who focus on domestic abuse do?

A therapist who specializes in intimate partner violence helps survivors identify, leave, and process the abuse. This may involve tracking behaviors over time, developing a safety plan, identifying a support network, leaving the abusive partner, and coming to understand the extent of the abuse and how to heal and move forward.

How can a therapist help someone identify domestic abuse in their relationship?

A therapist can help a patient understand what constitutes abuse—whether it be physical, emotional, sexual, or financial—and the tactics that perpetrators employ to maintain control, such as social isolation and manipulation. For example, a therapist may educate survivors about the cycle of abuse, have them write down behaviors to reveal a pattern and timeline, or ask specific questions that help an individual decide whether the behavior they have experienced is abusive.

What is the best therapy type for survivors of domestic abuse?

Therapists may use different therapeutic techniques based on the particular patient, but therapy types for survivors of abuse include cognitive behavioral therapy and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, interpersonal psychotherapy, cognitive processing therapy, and eye movement desensitization reprocessing. Medications such as antidepressants, anxiolytics, and hypnotics, may also be used in combination with therapy.

Can people heal from domestic abuse with therapy?

Yes, therapy can help those with domestic abuse at different stages in the process; a trained mental health professional can help patients identify domestic abuse, develop a safety plan, leave their abusive partner, adjust to the new environment, heal from the abuse, and set boundaries for future relationships. Support groups can also be valuable in helping survivors connect to people who understand their experience.