Helping Clients Who Are Being Abused: Safety and treatment planning
Keep safety in mind in your treatment planning, and assist the client with safety-related concerns. Work with the client to evaluate all treatment and discharge plans to determine whether following them might further endanger her or unintentionally reinforce her partner’s control.
Try to help each abused client to:
- Decide how contact between you and her can be handled most safely.
- See individual violent incidents as part of a pervasive, ongoing attempt to control her.
- Look beyond the current crisis and plan for safety during periods of relative calm.
- Identify high-risk situations and make specific plans for each one. This should include:
- Issues regarding her children’s safety, and her fear that she may lose custody of them.
- Her partner’s use of tactics that target her specific life situation (such as care-taking responsibilities, health or disability issues, economic situation, sexual orientation, etc.).
- Ways in which her partner may attempt to interfere with her efforts to get help, for instance by cancelling her appointments, demanding to attend her sessions, or calling or texting her during sessions, and how she wants to respond to such interference.
- Identify signals of impending danger as far ahead of the actual violence as possible, so she is more able to avoid violence or escape injury.
- Take her partner’s threats seriously – especially if he has followed through on past threats.
- Not put too much stock in her partner’s promises to change – abusers seldom stop just because they say they will.
- Connect with domestic violence service providers and other resources.
- Assess the safety implications of interventions by others,
- A judge imposing a mutual order of protection.
- Her partner’s therapist pushing for couple counseling.
- Assess the costs and benefits of calling the police, getting an order of protection, using domestic violence services, or disclosing abuse to friends or family.
- Rehearse her safety plans, imagine ways they could backfire.
For instance, the violence could escalate or there could be legal
problems. Help her come up with back-up plans and periodically
assess how well her plans are working.
(Many of these ideas are from Davies, J. (1998). Safety Planning with Battered Women. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.)