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Why therapy is a bad idea in abusive relationships

Taylor Armstrong, one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, was married to an abuser when she joined the show. In a recent episode, she and her husband, Russell Armstrong, go to therapy. The show actually aired after Russell Armstrong committed suicide in August.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline posted its views on the topic:

We at The Hotline do not encourage anyone in an abusive relationship to seek counseling. Abuse is not a relationship problem. While there can be benefits for couples who undergo therapy, there’s a great risk for any person who is being abused to attend therapy with their abusive partner.

I’m really glad to see the National Domestic Violence Hotline take this position, which they explain further in their blog post. The interview with Taylor Armstrong at the end of the post is also interesting. She credits the show with saving her life.

RHOBH recap: Taylor’s therapy and why we don’t recommend it, on TheHotline.org.


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33 Comments on "Why therapy is a bad idea in abusive relationships"

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It’s really time that this was talked about. Therapy was used against me by a master manipulator. The therapist thought that I was anxiety ridden and over reacting to the spath.

This was a fertile atmosphere for spath to give it to me good. “It’s your anxiety, hopeforjoy, listen to doctor quack”, “It’s your childhood that makes you act this way, I love you and would never hurt you, listen to doctor quack.” Blah, blah, blah

Boy oh boy, did I have cognitive dissonance. Talk about add to the ptsd, thank you doctor quack. He had narcissism writen all over him and totally weaseled his way out of his faulty counseling when I sent him all the proof. A-hole.

It was so damaging to me and I would NEVER recommend therapy for someone in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship. It’s simply not worth it.

it never worked for us either spent thousands, and every time they where confronted by counselor they where instantly on the offensive, nothing was ever there fault

Alex,

One thing that is constant with the disordered people we were with is that it is never their fault. We went to three therapists in total and at each therapist I was the crazy one. I’m not sure how much we spent but I will be in therapy for awhile yet, so there’s no end in site. One day I’ll be able to handle life without therapy, or a minimal amount of it.

I hope you are recovering from this experience and growing stronger by the day.

Dear Hope4Joy,

Glad to see you still with us hope4, and gosh how I remember what the “therapy” did for (TO) you, how it made you indecisive and anxious….and how I “despaired” that you would ever “see the light” and leave the creep! Oh, how I wanted to grab you by the hair of the head and DRAG you away from that jerk! (((hugs)))

How much joy there was in my heart when you finally threw the bum out!

I think if anyone can say a BIG AMEN!!!! to this article you can!

BTW how is junior doing? (((hugs)))

Dear Oxy,

Jr. is doing better, I think he is starting to see that he can trust me, contrary to what spath has told him. He seems to be reaching out and is actually nice to his sister. I have caught Jr. looking through my papers on my desk but I have nothing to hide. Poor kid, how awful for him to spend half his time at spath’s house and how unhealthy it must be over there.

He is 16 now and has to take the initiative if there are bad things happening at spath’s. Spath likes his mask too much to have things out in the open. It’s the emotional crap that is so wearing on the psyche. Jr. has hugged me more and tells me he loves me. We had a vacation to South Dakota in August and I think it really helped him and sister re-connect.

Jr. and I were talking about donuts about a month ago and he said that if I really love him I would go out and buy them for him. I’m like, no way bud, there are thousands of ways I show you I love you and buying stuff isn’t always love. Spath likes to buy love.

The divorce is in court right now, spath signed the papers (finally!) after telling me how hard it was for him. Boo hoo. He is collecting the last of his stuff tomorrow, I have older daughter here (not the one he tried to abuse) so I won’t be alone. I wrote a letter to him stating that if one item is missing or broken that wasn’t on the list for him to take, I will contact the proper authorities. He wrote me a nicey, nice letter back.

So far I have had missing mail, missing paper, the garage door opened, scratches on my car, coffee dumped on my car door, and a broken light outside (that mysteriously happened when he was here last). I spoke to him about those things and how it scares daughter and he laughed a weird little laugh and said “I’d never scare daughter or you, ever. You know I would never do that.” The laugh was the ‘tell’. Bastard

As for myself, I am healing and grateful for everyday. I started dating the guy I was telling you about, I’m pretty scared but not running away yet. So far so good. No red flags. He’s so kind to me and loving, it’s foreign and wonderful. He says he’s sorry if he thinks he has hurt my feelings and loves to hold my hand. He said he thanks God for sending me into his life. I hope it’s for real. Oxy, I think that maybe good things will start happening now.

It’s getting easier every day although the echoes of being with an abusive man will stay with me but keep diminishing by the day.

Daughter is thriving! She is an amazing kid, she has more common sense than anyone I know. She has nothing to do with spath, last time he tried to contact her she tore up the card he left. She has choosen what is healthiest for her and I support her fully.

Spath has a new girlfriend, I feel sorry for her and pray she has no children.

Oxy, you are a gift. If your horrible life lessons have anything good about them, it is because you can share your experience and wisdom with others. We learn from you. You are part of the reason I am healing, you’re not talking to me hurt but was a good thing! It was a slap I needed!!!

Much love, Hope4joy

.

Hope4, I am glad that Junior is doing better! Sounds like he is making some good progress and not seeing you as the bad guy any more mistreating pooor old dad!

I do think the Therapy you were going through set you back, and MY frustration was wrong…it is your life, it is now and it was then, and you know, when YOU were ready you made the break. That is the thing, and I LEARNED FROM THAT TOO so thank YOU for that.

Each of us has to make our moves at our own space and our own time.

Don’t know if you remember the blogger who came on here, can’t remember her name…was from England and she kicked her husband out (he was mastrubating in front of the kids etc) and then she took him back, then she kicked him out again…then she took him back I think, 2-3 times, not sure, but he was violent with her, both when he was living with her and when she had him out of the house….I was sooooo frustrated with that woman, but I have realized now that I had done the same thing….only with a son. SO what’s the difference? NONE!!!!

I’ve read that it takes X number of tries on average to quit smoking, and it takes Y numbers of time on average for women to leave abusive relationships…well I FINALLY QUIT SMOKING…and you finally kicked the creep out! I was wrong to be so judgmental about how long you chose, and I apologize to you for that. You were not obligated to take my advice. God knows I didn’t take anyone’s advice, or the ones I did take were WRONG! The decisions were mine though, and just like with the smoking when I MADE UP MY MIND, I DID IT.

I’m glad you finally got a therapist for you….and that you are taking care of YOU and setting some boundaries and having some fun with your kiddoes! God bless! (((hugs)))

Dear KatyDid,

I have been reading your posts as of late and they have been breaking my heart. I am sad for you and how you feel like love is not in your life. You look at it so logically and explain it that way, I wish I could hug you right now.

This isn’t meant to be trite, I am sincere. Please talk to me if you feel like it, I care.

Finally, some help centers who realize the real issue: abuse is not a relationship problem, but a power trip from one person over the other, and so relationship counceling will do shit

Good article. In therapy with my ex, I was also portrayed as the “crazy” one and ironically, I was portrayed as the abusive one. I even believed I was abusing him. I was guilty of “putting him down” and “nothing is ever good enough” when I complained about his parasitic nature and tried to get him to do his part. Or any part! The therapist basically sided with him and blamed me for his drug relapse because I kicked him out of my condo. Never mind that he wasn’t contributing, with money or otherwise. We just moved in, I had a cesarean and a brand new baby, and he was gone at work and then surfing till dark every night. My desperate pleas for help were ignored. Spath told me that I finally had everything I wanted and just couldn’t handle it. Hmmm, he wasn’t contributing or helping with the baby, the move, my surgery, etc. The therapist told me it was “extreme” to kick him out, despite the fact that I told him a month prior that he needed to find another place to live. And since he orchestrated the move to a place close to his favorite surf spot, totally inconvenient for me and my needs, he was especially angry to be made to leave. Didn’t stop him from breaking in later on, though. I even reported abuse to that therapist, right in front of him, and there was dead silence in the room. It was never addressed. I later reported her to the agency that referred me to her, telling them about her incompetence. She also really seemed to want my ex’s approval, as he was the same ethnicity as her fiance. She kept referencing her love of the Hawaiian culture and little anecdotes about her fiance in sessions. She seemed like she had a lot of issues, anyway. Bad therapist. I knew more about what was going on in her life than she did about mine!!! Insanity…

Hello everyone – log time no write, but read as much as I can.
I too agree that it’s a good thing to mention – especially on this site.
I tried counseling with my spathx – only to have it used against me. I even tried to get the church involved when I actually thought he wanted to become closer to me and closer to God – which he seemed to want to do at the beginning – but definately had no inclination of doing so after actually marrying me.
We tried a couple different counselors, just have it wasted when he said it served no purpose.
I wish I had known before hand and had this knowledge or I wouldn’t have wasted my time. I was trying to fix him – I admit that – he had anger issues – resulting in physical, emotional and mental abuse – not only with me, but with the children as well. And he admitted that he had probly damaged his son when he made him point out the guy that his mother was having an affair with.
You can’t fix them…. some lessons are learned the hard way.
I can, however, fix me. And I believe I have done good at that so far.
I have gone through some pretty rough times this year – but I’m getting through them on my own and with the help of all the people here and the knowledge learned, and becoming even stronger than I was before I met him and drained me like the vampires they are.
One thing I would like to add….
Ever since I read the article on ruminating – I have been mentally conscience of when I am and turning it off. I have found – for me – that going back into the past just isn’t a good thing. I have a bright future ahead of me and I am focusing on today and tomorrow instead of dwelling on the huge mistake I made by believing anything that animal said to me.
With that I would like to send out to everyone here a Very Happy New Year!!!

Blessings!

Shella I haven’t seen you post before, but glad you’re here, or glad you’re back. What is the article on ruminating? I’d like to see it. I wonder how much of it is good – because we are thinking back and learning – and how muchi s bad because it doesn’t serve a purpose.

Yes, I did want to change my spath too. Silly me.

Athena

lpmarie13
had same kind of experience with our counselor, its funny we put our trust and some faith in them, and we really dont know anything about them, we just let them take shots. it did us no good whatsoever she would blow up in every session and he would just quit 6 grand later i wanted to quit lol

I wish this (therapy is not a good idea) was around when I originally was trying to work things out with my S mother and P sister. I didn’t even realize that I was in a domestic abuse situation because it involved my mother and sister, and I had it in my head that domestic abuse was between lovers or spouses. Oh well. Water under the bridge.

However, I know that they got wind of “tough love” and decided that was what I needed – their version of it. In this case, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” was very true.

Therapists are in dire need of education as well. They’re prone to laying fault on both sides and fault you for not being understanding enough because things don’t seem to be working out.

My shrink, who heads the alcohol/drug addiction program at his facility and knew that I had been in Al-Anon for years, took my P sister’s word initially until I got in there and said, Hello? She’s an active drunk and one of the reasons I am in Al-Anon. He knew immediately what I meant, apologized, and dismissed what she said entirely, BUT they are convincing.

Not all fail to see what is happening.

I had a therapist who, after one brief meeting with my mother, said she would never ask me to do that again because it would never work.

Yet, my son’s therapist, who had a whole session with her about the same time, said that she seemed sincere in her concerns. She went to him because she wanted to know what was going on and what she could do to help. I said it was OK for them to talk, but I didn’t want him to reveal anything about us. He could use the time to evaluate her. I think that’s what he did. Who knows.

I am just so grateful to see this post. I hope the word is spreading.

My ex has finally been arrested and goes to court today for pre trial for domestic violence. his bail was set at 35,000. the prosecuter is keeping me informed. i had photo’s taken at the police station. she called yesterday to ask if i had done that so i’m assuming that they will be shown in court today. i don’t have to be present. i’m glad. i really don’t want to have to go to court because i don’t want to have to feel his evil eyes looking at me. that’s a horrible thought. but just wanted to let everyone know that he is caught and won’t be getting away with beating me up anymore.

Dear Marcy!!!! Congratulations and don’t lose your strength now! PROSECUTE HIM TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW! Good for you! Good for the DA!

I hope you are safe now, and maybe he won’t be able to make bail. Call a local domestic violence shelter and see what services are available to you! God bless and Keep SAFE!

Thank you Ox Drover! He won’t be able to make bail. that is too much money for him to come up with. I just get scared when i think about if i have to appear in court.

Marcy, you will do what you have to do to get him convicted and sentenced to prison! Just think about the LoveFraud MOB behind you! Cheering you on! We will be there in spirit for sure!!!! (((hugs))))

Thank you again, Ox Drover. you bring tears to my eyes.

Being there for each other is what LF is all about! Has brought some tears to my eyes too! That’s why I’m still here…I still learn new things every day and when a day goes “south” I know there is always someone here to say something supportive! (((hugs)))

Marci II,

Yay, good for you. STAY STRONG. Love and nurture yourself now. Don’t be afraid of court. (Yes, I know, it IS scary)Even if you go to court, dress up, don’t even look at at him, hold your head up high, get yourself in a place where you can take as much emotion out of it as possible. You deserve peace, you deserve kindness, you deserve the right to be left alone and live without abuse.
You go girl now and find the beauty in every moment you can.
Life really is lovely. You will find those who think that if you expunge the evil – which is what you just DID,
Peace to you now.

This was a very interesting article. I went to a therapist to assist me in getting over the trauma of my divorce. When I met my sociopathic boyfriend, who was also trying to separate from his wife, went to see my therapist as well. The therapist saw us both, but separately.

The story goes that I knew something was wrong, but oftentimes the therapist took my boyfriend’s side and I was hurt by that, but at the time, did it because I wanted a open and honest relationship. At the end, my boyfriend admitted to lying to the therapist. Thus, the relationship ended between the therapist and my boyfriend.

As a professional, why would he not have compared my story to his? Was it because I was the one who complained about his behavior?

Just a couple of weeks ago, the therapist told me he loved me.

I am beside myself as I feel that there is no one who I can trust, or who can be honest with me. I have written blog after blog on this website and although the support is immense, I have not felt that I am moving forward.

My boyfriend surfaced in my life 2 months ago – just to say that he was leaving the state and I found out two weeks later that he was moving in with his ‘other’ girlfriend.

My heart breaks everytime I see his face and I have yet to feel the anger and resentment, which would help me move forward.

Now I have to find another therapist who can offer me a game plan, instead of regurgitating the same crap week after week.

I have been to 5 therapists over the course of my marriage. The first man I saw alone said, “This guy will never change.” He was probably the best counselor of all 5, I just didn’t know it at the time. In fact I was upset that he didn’t relate some way I could save my marriage or yes– FIX IT. TEN years later (why is my tolerance so high?)I convinced spath to go with me. Spath refused to fill out the intake papers and counseling lasted 4-5 sessions. The goal was to “break lose what was bothering me.” The third counselor I again went alone. She called spath a dry alcoholic (he was not drinking heavily at that time). She said you keep the family looking good and he rides on all your efforts. Boy, had she nailed it. I pretty much left with the idea that I would just be happy about my contribution to the family, my marriage, my children’s lives and my community. That worked (me just being happy with myself) for another 2-3 years, and again I insisted we go to counseling. This time spath went in with the upper hand albeit admitting that he was detached and disconnected. Counselor told him to reach out more and told me to basically get a life and something going for myself. She told me I did too much for my family and kids – and to stop cooking so much. I was kind of insulted, as if taking care of myself and 3 kids and their needs was’nt sufficient. The last ditch effort – 5th and final counselor was a wonderful man, but he misled me. He said spath can change, but, “Prepare for a long battle.” Like wtf, a battle for the rest of my life here on this earth. Um , no thanks. In fact, when I really stopped and analyzed myself, I wondered if I was going to counseling to GET PERMISSION to leave the marriage. I think I kind of was. I wanted someone to affirm and push me in the direction that was becoming so blatantly obvious that I had to call it quits if there was going to be any kind of upfront quality life for me. And I was mad at myself for role modeling to the kids that what they observed much of the time was any real way for a man and woman to interact. My ego, my will, my energy all kept thinking I could get this right if only I said the right thing, if only I acted the right way, if only I stuck up for myself without a fight ensuing. I wasn’t allowed to disagree with spath. I wasn’t allowed to have a negative emotion. I wasn’t allowed to voice a complaint. Spaths can’t tolerate that and no therapist or counselor can fix it. And that folks is the truth. Glad to be out. Solo is sometimes lonely but healing. In counseling I learned that I had no boundary lines. And it was almost impossible to establish one after 22 years of marriage. The mold was so set. I learned I was WAY too tolerant, which in my heart I knew, but didn’t have the strength to file, to go, to call it quits. It takes courage and strength after you get beaten down.

Remember most spaths won’t even go to counseling. He was always VERY resistant. If they go, they lie, they still hide behind the mask. Only the truth can set them free, so the good thing is when we say enough and either get them to leave or throw them out, they have to live with themselves. That is why the suicide. It’s a painful look into the heart of oneself. In life you really only have yourself. I remind myself of those sayings,
To thy self, Be True
The first rule in life: Do not deceive thyself.

Shelby333,

Run from that therapist. He is preying on you. Good therapists don’t tell their clients they love them. He sees you as vulnerable.

As for the boyfriend, listen to your gut. You knew something was wrong, you found out dishonesty was involved, so protect yourself and cut the cord. Your heart breaks because when you care and love- and it’s real – you can only get that by allowing yourself to be vulnerable.

Hang out with good people. Hang out with people who are supportive of you. Don’t hang with dishonest people. You are not desperate.

Be true to yourself.
It’s peaceful
xo and a hug

Thanks honestkindgiver. I’m feeling pretty low today. I am alone a lot of the time as I live alone, work alone and do a lot of things on my own. So, there is lots of time to think, to get on the net and see pics of him.

I trust very few people and it is getting to be more difficult to be open. My therapist – he is married. Trying to wrap my head around that one is difficult as well.

I pray a lot. I ask for forgiveness and light – that the way will be shown to me. I feel that there are no answers and I need to ride this one out.

Thank you for your kind words.

Dear Shelby,

YOU have a moral compass–your therapist does not. He is UNETHICAL, even an unmarried counselor cannot have a relationship with a client, so he is WAY off base. I suggest you call and report him to the professional organization that over sees his license in your state. Do NOT even go back for one more session.

Your moral compass is working FINE I think, so, that said….you don’t want a relationship with anyone who is IMMORAL/UNETHICAL. Good for you! That in itself is a BIG FEATHER IN YOUR CAP!

You say you work alone and do a lot of things alone. Alone does NOT equal “lonely” though.

You mentioned that gives you time to “get on the net and see pics of him” THAT IS BREAKING NC and really is going to do nothing but make YOU miserable.

He is out of your life. He is a liar…so why are you cyber stalking him? It makes you feel bad,, so STOP DOING IT.

You say you have not made progress….well I think that is one reason you haven’t made the progress you would like.

The healing starts out about THEM but ends up being about ourselves. About making boundaries, about doing what is good for us. It isn’t just about learning about them, but learning about TAKING GOOD CARE of ourselves

Keep on working, Shelby! Don’t give up and don’t despair! Knowledge is power, keep on learning and being good to yourself. (((hugs)))

Shelby,

Move, Pray, Serve.
Get outside and walk. Move.
Read affirmations, the Bible, self help, motivational stuff. Pray
Do one small thing that is nice. An act of kindness. Serve
That will all make you feel better

Move, Pray, Serve

Shelby,

Just to add to Oxy, DON’T look at him. Rid your life of pictures and reminders or YOU WILL NOT HEAL.
It is just ripping off the scab.

Thoughts=feelings=action
if you think about him, it creates bad feelings, which in turn causes you to act in ways that don’t serve you well

Think good thoughts, you will feel better, it will cause you to have more productive actions

Thoughts=Feelings=Action

Thank you OxDrover and honestkindgiver. I’m going to print your messages and keep it next to me at all times.

I forget the simple things and get inundated with detritus. I appreciate it.

Thank you.

*enters topic* *hugs shelby* *leaves topic* ^_^

Thank you for the encouragement honestkindgiver. it really does help when someone is there to give that. i just got home from a girlfriends house and was telling her about being scared to go to court. she told me that i can do it by telephone. if i tell them i’m too scared to be in the same room as him. she said they did that for her. she said i can hear him make his statements and i will be asked questions from his attorney too. so i am going to see if i can do it that way. that would be totally way better. haven’t heard the outcome of what todays court appearance was. i’ll call the prosecuter in the morning and she said she would let me know.

honestkindgiver,
I like that:
move, pray, serve.

wonderful advice for lifting the spirits.

Near,
HI!

Shelby,
OMG. I’m starting to think that therapists are like cops – on a power trip. Well not all, but we do have to watch for red flags.

Also, watch for the vibes you are giving off. Too much vulnerability attracts spaths.

A friend sent me “Fear of Life” by Alexander Lowen, MD. I’m reading it now. You might like it and not need too much therapy after reading it.

It’s excellent.

Skylar: Hey, buddy! ^_^ How is it going this holiday season?

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