At the end of the first conjoint session, a contract was drawn up with a specific plan around communication, stress reduction and anger management should Carl become angry again or if a fight was about to occur. Bonnie was aware that she had a role in the process, which was to allow Carl space and time if he needed it before they tried to talk over the problem. The contract gave specific actions to help defuse the anger and avoid any further violence between them. They were able to start to handle their conflicts in a more constructive way by talking without raising their voice, taking a break and going for a walk if either of them were upset and giving each other time to speak without interruption. After we completed our sessions, I contacted an agency that specializes in domestic violence work that was closer to their home and suggested that they continue therapy there for a period of time to continue to monitor use of the contract and receive support.
The contract was reviewed during each session and revisions were made if some aspect of the contract was working or if something was not working. At times, they started to digress from the contract and discuss their list of complaints about each other. They needed structure and support from me to stick with the plan that they both initially agreed to with the knowledge that this was a tool to effectively reduce the conflicts and fighting.
In cases with more severe abuse, a safety plan is put in place for the partner that is being abused. It also includes a safety plan for the children and pets. Some of the issues covered in the safety plan include: where to find safety and shelter, leaving personal items at that safe place, financial resources, where to store money and a bag of belongings in the event that the person has to leave quickly, how to handle safety issues pertaining to the children and where to leave pets.
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