Coparent Academy Podcast

#97 - Treating the Abusive Parent - Part 2 of 2

January 29, 2024 Linda VanValkenburg and Ron Gore
Coparent Academy Podcast
#97 - Treating the Abusive Parent - Part 2 of 2
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In part 2 to episode 7 of our series on domestic violence and coparenting we continue to discuss the kinds of treatment needed for the abusive parent before that person should be reintegrated into the child's life.

If you would like to participate in our domestic violence series as a guest, please contact us and let us know. We are interested in all perspectives and backgrounds for our conversations.

Thanks for listening!  If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please email us at podcast@coparentacademy.com.  To learn more about becoming the best coparent you can be, visit coparentacademy.com.

Speaker 1:

All right, everybody, welcome back to the second part of episode seven of our Domestic Violence and Co-Parenting series, and this episode we're going to finish our conversation about treatment for the abuser parent. Last time we had sort of an introduction to that concept but we sort of ended with some of the precursor, some of the preliminary things that were necessary before the abuser parent should get in the office with the reconciliation counselor to try to reintroduce the relationship with the child. So in today's episode Linda is going to do 99.75% of the talking because we're going to be talking about how she would work with the abuser parent in her office. Did I give the right sort of heads up on that, linda?

Speaker 2:

Sure, but you're allowed to talk.

Speaker 1:

That's okay. Just because I have the right to doesn't mean we covered that last time. Oh gosh. So, linda. So we've gotten the person through some treatment. Hopefully they're through, you know, maybe six months of a batter's intervention type course. They're learning some empathy, taking ownership of what they've done, they're ready to make full disclosures. They're an individual counseling and now they're ready to come to you to see if they're ready to be reintroduced to their child.

Speaker 2:

They're ready to see if they're ready.

Speaker 1:

Ready to see if they're ready. Well, you know we talked about hoops.

Speaker 2:

I really love this perfect world we live in.

Speaker 1:

That's why it's so critical that orders reporting reconciliation counselors give the professional some ability to determine if their services are appropriate in that moment. Right? Well, I said I wasn't going to talk.

Speaker 2:

No, you're great. So by this time, in our perfect world where they show up to see me, I'm listening to see what they have learned and I'll even probably ask them a few things about that and typically they still have a pretty negative view of their partner, or sometimes even the child, based on those people's resistance to the abusers, abuse and control. So they may see the partner and child in various negative connotations, like they're ganged up against them, like that user themselves as the victim, etc. That's the kind of terminology I'm listening for. Okay.

Speaker 1:

So, yeah, so someone who's all about control. When someone resisted their control, they started having really negative and green views of them, because how dare they?

Speaker 2:

write. And then I want to find out how much they're going to deflect the problem off to the partner or even or even a child. For example, if a child has physically tried to intervene or distract a parent from hurting the other parent, the abuser may see that child as being the problem. You know, if they just wouldn't do that, if they would just go to the room or go outside or whatever, it wouldn't have happened. So that's the kind of thing I'm listening for too. Is they're deflecting off to someone else? Because if they're going to do that in their intake session just with me, they're most probably going to do that worse, even in the session with the child. Many times that would be the parent who is calling the child a liar for whatever their perspective was, who will even scream at the child, pound the table, jump up. You know like they're about to come and get the kid Quite. A few years ago I had a parent watch themselves across a really large, wide conference table to get to the child where the child confronted them on something they had done. Kind of reminded me of that the other day when I saw the news story about the judge.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, the judge.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I'm telling you, I had a flashback of that thing happening right before my eyes in the conference room and it was the same kind of thing. That father had just told the child that he was not like that, had never done that, it would never do that, and then he did that. It's very important for the parent to have developed some respectful behaviors and attitudes. If they show that once again to me, especially as a female, it's gonna show versus a disrespectful something to me or something demanding in their behavior toward me. I've had people that literally just popped out of prison for something aggressive or violent and they are telling me in their intake session with me they just met me and they're telling me about their history with prison and that they will now quickly as quickly as I can make it happen like it's up to me they will quickly get full custody of their child. So I get lots of clues like that in the intake session that they haven't worked on much.

Speaker 1:

Because they just can't help themselves.

Speaker 2:

Right. They just can't help themselves. They think they are fully entitled to all the above.

Speaker 1:

So this really highlights why that work needs to be done before they come and see you in the first place. So I can imagine a custodial parent saying, okay, well, fine, so they went and they had like six months or eight months of counseling. Now they just know how to hide it better in front of you, and so I'd almost rather them not have it, so that practice and that treatment before, because at least you would see the real them and not the them that they're pretending to be just to jump through the hoops.

Speaker 2:

And I have heard that from the custodial parent before the difference there is when they're working, especially with a male therapist or in a group of other men, presuming that it's a male abuser. It isn't always. They won't really know what I'm looking for. If they do have some sort of interbias against females, it will show. It just does. Which is why Divas a long time ago, thought I belonged in an abuser's group so I would be triggering them. I think.

Speaker 1:

You're the abuser trigger.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I was the guinea pig. They were just developing the men's group, so how old were you then? Oh gosh, I was just. I was in my 30s, but just, I mean, I wasn't even a therapist yet. I was a baby, I was learning how to be a therapist. I volunteered to work at Divas because I wanted to work with the children. I was a teacher and a school counselor and I wanted to work with children at the shelter. Didn't get to do that.

Speaker 1:

All right. So now you've got these guys in your office, and what happens?

Speaker 2:

Well, I want them to show me that they get what the child is going to need and that the child has a right to be angry, that the child will be angry and will be confronting them with the things that they felt hurt by that that parent either did to their other parent, or to a sibling, or to themselves, or all the above.

Speaker 1:

And how do they usually receive that news?

Speaker 2:

That's typically when the defendant deflect stuff starts. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, cause I guess they're visualizing what it's gonna be and they start oh so I imagine that they're in their imagination they are coming up with the perfect way to attack themselves because they know what they did. They're putting those words into the kid's mouth and then they're responding to that defensively.

Speaker 2:

Right, and they also have to understand that their history of abuse is not going to get them instantaneous full custody.

Speaker 1:

Right, that's such a weird way to say that the history of abuse is why I get custody.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, but that's what I'm saying is they've really come in my office in person with me in my office, with it getting dark outside, and I'm the last one left in a big building and they're telling me all this, what I'm gonna do for them. So at those points I haven't exactly said it's gonna be a long road before you could even get to thinking about such a thing, because A it doesn't really apply to me because I'm not the one that decides those things. But but again, I'm there by myself with this person who just got out of prison two weeks ago.

Speaker 1:

Right, which is another reason you know people say I've had many instances where someone says you can't do counseling over Zoom or telemedicine or whatever you use. But that's another indication about why sometimes it's the best way, because you can have that safety. You can have the confidence to really push the way that you would want to push and not fear for your physical safety and they may be in their own area and feel more confident because they're in their own house or they're probably a lot of times guys are in their truck, probably talking with you. That does happen a lot of the time, yeah, and so everyone is maybe kind of more their real selves.

Speaker 2:

The kids could be in bed, you know, sitting up against the headboard of their bed. They can be, you know, in a GAO's office or a PC's office or something where they are, you know, feeling very surrounded by lots of nice people and kind of being catered to, and then the other parent is at anywhere within hearing distance, right, because sometimes they do have some very positive things they want to say to that parent that's been absent for a while and so they need to be feeling comfortable to say that. But it's important, and I always preface that, of course, by telling the abuser I'm not your attorney, I'm not an attorney period, I'm not going to have any say so about how much visitation you get or how much custody you get, but there are usually some hoops that you have to jump through, and I just explained what some of those potential hoops are, and they would usually be something like supervision and no overnight and not extended amounts of time and so forth.

Speaker 1:

So then you have this sort of introductory speech where you're telling the rules of the road and you know essentially what the process is going to be, and then what happens.

Speaker 2:

Well, I want them to understand All this is happening before and around endearing and after the sessions, because you know, I mean we've got a whole, a whole compared to Academy recording on what happens therapeutically in the sessions with the child. These are the things that just focusing on the abuser that they need to be doing before and during the reconciliation process with their child, and so they really do also need to accept that they're probably going to have to work on these abuse issues for the rest of their life and monitor themselves very closely and be willing to be accountable to their former partner and be accountable to any challenges that need to be brought their way regarding their current behaviors. Because that's one of the reasons too, after I've done a reconciliation, especially with such a setting, it's important to continue to follow the parent and child for a few months and do at least maybe a monthly kind of maintenance program where the child will come on first and tell me you know how much they're seeing the parent, how it's going. Are there any even fairly small parts of the parent's previous behavior that has recently confused them, worried them, scared them? And then we can work on that, so that we're not going clear back to square one. We're just continuing what we've done together.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's one of those reasons why the person who's the abuser has to be ready to go into the process, because it's all a sequence of tweaks, like at the beginning, big tweaks, big redirections, and then, as they go further in the process, more moderate tweaks, more subtle tweaks, and they have to be looking for ways to fix themselves too. Unless they're ready to start thinking about that, they're not ready for the process because you can't work with them.

Speaker 2:

And actually I think a lot of the 12 step program for drugs and alcohol can be very well applied to the abusers in this situation. I mean, when you think back about what we have talked about in this series, a lot of that would apply. And you are needing to make amends to your partner, former partner, your children and in order to make amends, you really do have to own something and sincerely apologize and, trust me, your kids know if you're sincere or not and then show, going forward, that you have learned something new and you are going to be reacting differently.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I thought about that when you were talking about, you know, monitoring themselves for the rest of their lives. It's very similar to I'm an alcoholic, I'm an abuser. Like what I do. Is I abuse unless I'm really staying on top of my treatment and my counseling and my state of mind. So that makes a lot of sense. And you know, I had a text. I accidentally texted one of my clients today who's gone through a lot of treatment for substance abuse and I accidentally texted him complete nonsense. And I think towards the beginning of the representation I may have gotten back a really interesting response to that. But the response I got back today was very sweet and full of grace. Wow, and you can just tell that that person has gone through a lot and has really changed. And I was just so blown away. But that's the kind of thing where it was ridiculous. I mean, I looked and it was not, it was gibberish, and he did his best to try to make out what I was saying and then try to communicate back with me in a productive way and I was like man, good for you, you know, and that's the kind of thing that we need to see with the abuser parent. Where we could, you could throw some emotional gibberish at him and, instead of putting it through the sort of filter of this is something that's meant to be abusive or this person didn't care enough to do something that made sense, they look at it in the best light possible, with as much grace as possible, and then come back with a response that's meant to engage and to be kind.

Speaker 2:

But be sure, and let him know that oh.

Speaker 1:

I did.

Speaker 2:

It's really important. I love it when I get a kid telling me Now, it tells me so many things, those so many levels. They're not being programmed by the custodial parent, if they can say you know, I've seen a real change in this parent.

Speaker 1:

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Speaker 2:

I. Something happened the other day that they would usually have thrown a fit about, they would have screamed at me for spilling something or whatever, and they just grabbed a rag and helped me clean it up. You know it was way different behavior and that's what I always try to explain to these parents that you have got to regain that trust. You know it's a shoot. I had a dog that had been abused and for the next eight years that I had him he ducked every time there was a loud noise. You know, not even me, it just it was just amazing. And so you know, if that happens with an animal, it's going to be happening with your child.

Speaker 1:

Right, and it's not enough, where the first time they smelled the milk and you didn't yell, it's not like. Okay, I checked that box. Next time I can be more me. You know it's no, every single time, right.

Speaker 2:

I have to continue that because long consistency.

Speaker 1:

Yes, until the new normal. Because, as you know, it kind of reminds me of interstep family course when we talk about having to build a new cultural framework of understanding for the people coming into a new step family Environment. Before you can have the kind of relationship that you want, and it kind of feels like this is the same thing they have to start from scratch. They have to unwind what they did before and then create a brand new cultural framework for that relationship. Right?

Speaker 2:

New normal is a great way to put it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, interesting Alright, everybody. So thank you for joining us today for this part two of episode seven of our domestic violence and co-apparenting season. We'll call it or series. Next week we have episode eight, talking about treatment for the custodial parent. All right, thank you everybody. Have a great week.

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