New Content Added: To update the content we have added Domestic Violence information found at the end of the Table of Contents.
On this track... we will discuss extremely controlling behavior. We will also assess the effect controlling behavior has on
a recipient in two areas. These two areas are: Loss of Power, and Disintegration of
Recognizing a Power Imbalance
you heard the term he or she has gotten a Great Catch? You probably
have. What are the criteria set by one of your clients for a Great Catch?
Great looks? Tall? Short? Muscular? Small built? Athletic? Good income? Good retirement
plan? When you think of this client who feels that she has gotten or perhaps has
lost The Great Catch, ask yourself, does her feeling of having gotten
the Great Catch, create a power imbalance in the relationship?
importantly, does this power imbalance of the Great Catch lead to
a controlling abusive relationship? Keep in mind I am using she for
purposes of brevity and could easily say he or she, him or her, each time I use
a feminine pronoun.
to statistical information gathered by the battered women's National Crisis Centers
Organization, Within a single year, 7% of American women, or 3.9 million,
who are married or living with someone as a couple were physically abused. That's
However, 37% or 20.7 million, compared to the 3.9 million physically
abused, are verbally or emotionally abused by their spouse or partner. That's
7% compared to 37%, a 30% difference. Keep in mind that's over 1/3 of the people
who are married or living with someone. Ask yourself, would providing this
statistic to one of your clients be beneficial?
take a look at extremely controlling behavior and assess the effect it has on
the recipients in two areas. There is a saying that goes, Absolute power
2 Effects of Extremely Controlling Behavior
Think of a client you are currently treating who feels
she has gotten her Great Catch. Chances are she thinks she is extremely
fortunate to be in this relationship. Ask yourself, how much control does she
give away and in the following two areas: Loss of Power, and Disintegration of
Loss of Power
The first area I assess is the client's Loss of Power.
Have you found, like I, that this loss-of-power can unfold sometimes very slowly
as the abusive controlling behavior by the Great Catch begins. Ill
talk about Sandra in a minute. You will see how, gradually, Sandra lost control
over herself and her own emotions. The extent of her loss-of-control is directly
proportional to her feeling that she has gotten a Great Catch, James.
In short, the greater the Catch the greater was her loss of power.
form has this loss-of-power taken for a current client you are treating? Loss
of decision making regarding: Finances? Pregnancy? Even how much and what food
they eat? Yes, how much food she eats.
a 31 year-old divorced... physical therapist, has two girls ages 9 and 10. James
moved in with her over a year ago. When Sandra came into my office, she stated,
James seemed like such a godsend when he first moved in. He had a steady
job and paid most of the rent. But, a few weeks after moving in, he started telling
me I was a bad mother, and a failure at caring for my two girls. He then started
disciplining my girls for not studying hard enough or for making too much noise.
He would send them to their room without supper or not allow them to watch TV.
James calls me "a wimp." Im so nervous that I have to take sleeping
pills, just so I can sleep every night
then continued to describe how James serves-up her and her daughters supper
and insists that they eat all they were served. Sandra stated, I hate brussel
sprouts. James would give me and my girls practically a whole plate full! I know
this sounds like a little thing, but its humiliating to be treated like
a child in front of my girls. Clearly, Sandras feeling that she has
gotten the Great Catch via someone who paid her rent has found that
the price was her loss of power. So with your client, who is in an abusive-controlling
relationship, make this first assessment in your mind. In what areas has your
client lost her power?
Disintegration of Self-image
In addition to Loss of Power, the
second symptom I assess in abusive-controlling relationships is the level of Disintegration
of Self-Image. What is your image of yourself? Mentally rate yourself as a therapist
right now on some imaginary subjective scale of your choosing. Are you a superior
therapist? Excellent; Very good; Average; Fair; or poor?
example, lets say your self-image is that youre a very-good therapist.
However, in your annual written evaluation the board governing your agency rates
you below average. Does your self-image as a therapist disintegrate? Probably,
or maybe not. However, what if you got fired and sought several positions only
to be fired because of poor ratings, would your self-image as therapist disintegrate?
I can only speak for myself, but these circumstances clearly would have a major
impact on me.
you know, for clients like Sandra who feel she has hooked the Great Catch,
this same type of Disintegration of Self-image occurs as continual evaluations
of below average are provided by her significant other, James. James, the Great
Catch, disintegrated Sandras self-image by stating for example, She
was incompetent to discipline her girls, prepare adequate meals, and even incompetent
to judge how much food she and her girls should eat. Her self image became
one of total negative energy, self-hate, and loathing.
you can imagine, Sandra doubted her ability as a housekeeper, cook, and as a lover.
Sandra, like other women in abusive-controlling relationships, tended to be a
traditionalist in her views of her relationship. The problem is, this buys right
in to disintegration of self-image as these traditional homemaking areas are negatively
evaluated by their Great Catch. Think back to the clients you are
currently treating with relationship issues. Is this traditional homemaker
view the basis of their self-esteem? How much value does their significant
other place on your clients activities outside the home? I found with Sandra,
activities she did outside of the home she viewed as unimportant when it came
to evaluating her self worth, unless the activity outside the home was recognized
as being important by James.
a client you are currently treating, what are activities her partner recognizes
and validates, that contributes to her self-esteem? Do you agree with the idea
that the more highly your client values their Great Catch or significant
other, the more control they give away in the relationship? Will these two basic
assessment points facilitate you in your next session with a client? With the
client you've been thinking about as you've listened to this track, what will
she say in her next session that indicates: #1, her level of Loss of Power in
her relationship, and #2, her level of disintegration of self-image as a result
of controlling-abusive behavior by her significant other?
that you have assessed the two basics of loss of power and disintegration of self-image
for your client, in the next track we will discuss two labeling tactics you might
consider using to increase your client's awareness.
- Burke, S. E., Wang, K., & Dovidio, J. F. (Jun 2014). Witnessing Disclosure of Depression: Gender and Attachment Avoidance Moderate Interpersonal Evaluations. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 33(6), 536-559.
- Meza-de-Luna, M. E.; Romero-Zepeda, H. (2013). Trames: Areas of Conflict in the Intimte Couple. A Journal of the Humanities & Social Sciences, 17(1), 87-100. DOI: 10.3176/tr.2013.1.04
What are two results of an abusive controlling relationship? To select
and enter your answer go to .