With most of the challenges we have in life, we cannot make a change until we first acknowledge there is a problem. If we cannot recognize our behavioral problems, we cannot begin to make steps towards a different behavior. There is help and there can be success but it takes a lot of work and accountability on the part of the abusive partner. This individual work must be done before any work as a couple or a family can begin.

The victim of the abuse is powerless to change an abuser. There is nothing the victim does that provokes any kind of abuse and the victim cannot change behavior to avoid abuse. [media]If the house is clean or not, if someone had a bad day at work or not, if someone is drunk or not: there is no excuse for abuse.[/media]

Domestic Violence Treatment:

The goal of domestic violence treatment is to end violent and abusive behavior, increase victim safety and hold people accountable for their violent and/or abusive behavior. Domestic violence treatment is often ordered by the court in criminal and civil case where DV is present. Under a court order, the law in Washington State dictates that treatment last no less than one year. A participant’s progress will guide the treatment plan in that year.  Most treatment providers use Moral Reconation Therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in domestic violence treatment groups and counseling. Domestic violence treatment is not anger management (see below).

Couples Counseling:

Couples counseling is not recommended when there is domestic violence in a relationship as it allows the abuser to stay focused on their criticisms of their partner rather than dealing with their own issues. Abusers may even retaliate against the victim physically or verbally for what is said to the counselor. Abuse is a problem of the abuser, not a problem in the relationship. It is also important to note that therapists in Washington State are not required to have any domestic violence training which is why it is mandatory to use a state certified program.

Anger Management:

Many abusers are not angry, but use violence and abusive behaviors as a control tactic. Individuals in treatment often say that they used their expression of anger as a way to intimidate and control their partners. Anger management programs are not designed to address the fundamental causes of domestic violence or safety and accountability issues. Anger management is not an appropriate alternative to domestic violence treatment.


  • Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft
  • The Verbally Abusive Man, Can He Change?: A Woman’s Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go by Patricia Evans
  • Waiting for Change in Others

Local Certified Domestic Violence Treatment Providers: