Therapy for domestic violence abusers. Interview with Anna Stodolová

People have a conflicted  nature and often hurt others just because they have been hurt themselves. This does not mean we should condone their actions. However, we can try to understand them and help them. We discussed the topic with Anna Stodolová, the leader of the therapeutic programme called “Stop Violence in Relationships”.

19 foto Anna StodolováAnna Stodolová (43) is a psychology graduate from the Faculty of Arts of  Charles University in Prague. She has worked for the ECCB’s Diaconia since 1996 – in the Centre of Christian Aid in Prague and the SOS Centre, where she deals with crisis intervention, psychotherapy and advisory. She is participating in the project called “Violence in Relationships”, where she provides therapy for individuals as well as for couples. In her private practice, she works individually with adults and adolescents and also offers therapy for couples. She is a lecturer of crisis intervention courses and courses working with aggression in relationships. Since 2008 she has also been organising discussions for parents on the topics of partner relationships and bringing up children.

 You work with domestic violence abusers, which is unusual at first sight. What inspired you to start running such a programme?

The former director of our SOS centre in Prague, Jarmila Čierná, was a key person in founding the programme. Our crisis centre was contacted by many people who were confronted with domestic violence. We were able to provide  crisis intervention, and were trying to ensure that domestic violence victims would have access to appropriate care in institutions that focus on this issue. However, we were also looking for an answer to whether the only help for a family where domestic violence was happening was the break-up of the partners. In addition, we did not find an appropriate service for the actual perpetrators. We sought inspiration from our international as well as Czech colleagues and gradually put together a programme that helps the abuser manage his violent behaviour. This means we are now able to provide a wider range of services to families dealing with domestic violence.

What is the most common cause of violent behaviour toward one’s partner?

You could hardly find one main cause. However, violent behaviour really tends to be connected with an insecure personality: the person feels threatened by something or somebody and reacts in an inadequate manner. The feeling of helplessness is often one of the triggers of aggressive behaviour. Most of the abusers  faced  some form of violence in the family they came  from and therefore tend to act similarly when under stress. We deal with “hot aggression” – fast aggression that is connected with a given situation to a major extent.  Our clients are often overburdened, stressed people who, paradoxically, are unable to think about themselves and react violently when their frustration builds up.

How can therapy help these people?

The therapist helps the clients uncover the roots of their aggression and look for a way to solve problems and conflicts without violence. When clients come to us, this already means they are taking on a certain portion of responsibility for their violent behaviour and they need to be encouraged that there is a way out of the vicious circle of aggression. In the process of  therapy, it is of key importance to help the client see that his/her violent behaviour hurts others and needs to be changed, but also that aggression is an innate part of everybody’s personality and we need to learn how to cope with it.

 Does the therapy have any tangible results? Have you had clients whose aggressive behaviour disappeared altogether?

It is very difficult to quantify the results. The therapy is a long process, the recommended time both for individual and group therapy is at least one year. However, once somebody decides to start the therapy, takes it seriously and does not give up, they can gain control over their aggression.

Anna Stodolová (43) is a psychology graduate from the Faculty of Arts of  Charles University in Prague. She has worked for the ECCB’s Diaconia since 1996 – in the Centre of Christian Aid in Prague and the SOS Centre, where she deals with crisis intervention, psychotherapy and advisory. She is participating in the project called “Violence in Relationships”, where she provides therapy for individuals as well as for couples. In her private practice, she works individually with adults and adolescents and also offers therapy for couples. She is a lecturer of crisis intervention courses and courses working with aggression in relationships. Since 2008 she has also been organising discussions for parents on the topics of partner relationships and bringing up children.