Therapy to End Abuse and Violence:
At Home, At Work or On the Road
Questions and answers for those considering therapy for anger issues.
What will we do in therapy?
Why is it important that you speak with my partner?
We'll first take an inventory together of the ways that your misuse of anger and aggressive behaviour has gotten in the way of your relationships whether at home or at work or anywhere else in your life.
We'll examine the beliefs, attitudes or values that influence you and see if you are living a life that is consistent with the kind of person you want to be.
You'll learn the physical and emotional stages of anger and how to recognize your level of anger.
You'll learn that even though you feel intense rage that feels uncontrollable, you are still making choices and can learn to make better choices in that moment.
You'll learn how your destructive thinking contributes to those feelings and choices and how to catch the thoughts and assumptions that lead to aggression before you act on them.
We'll explore relaxation techniques that you can practice outside of the session.
We'll explore what you can do to help heal the relationships you've damaged.
If your concern is about your behaviour toward your wife or intimate partner, it is important
that I have a conversation with her. To be helpful I'll need to hear your partner's experience of her
(or his) relationship to you. I will not become your partner's therapist though I can help them find
a therapist if they wish. Since this session with your partner is part of your therapy, the cost will
need to be paid by you.
If I'm attending therapy because of a concern about my behaviour at work will my employer know
about my attendance?
Your written permission would be required to let your employer know of your attendance. It is
helpful if I have a conversation with a person at work (usually a supervisor or manager) about their
experience of you as an employee. I will not disclose anything to them about your therapy other than
the fact that you are attending. If you need a report from me for your extended health plan or other
paper work, I will write this report with you so that you are as comfortable with the content as
Wouldn't it be better if I came for couple's therapy with my partner?
Couples therapy is not helpful when one person has used abusive or violent behaviours causing
the other to feel afraid or that they have to watch what they do or say. Fear gets in the way of
helping couples make healthy changes. When you are secure with ideas and skills that increase respect
and safety, I can help you and your partner find a couples therapist if you both want that. In some
cases, I can be work with you and your partner together if that feels right for all three of us. Some
prefer to continue to work with me and some may want to start couples therapy with a new therapist
who will start fresh. And sometimes I may feel that I can be most helpful by staying available for
you as an individual therapist while you work on your relationship with another couples therapist.
How effective is therapy?
If our work is going to make a difference you should feel positive about the direction we're
going after one session and have some skills to use in the next week. Research shows that the
greatest change in therapy happens in the first 5-6 sessions. The great majority of clients that
come for help with anger and aggression are successful. I'll ask you at the end of each session if
you are getting what you came for. Please let me know what you think of our work together. If I'm not
helping you make a positive difference I can adjust the approach we take or I can help you find
someone who will be a better fit for your needs.
How can I increase the effectiveness of therapy?
Do any homework exercises. Do the suggested reading and watch the videos. Talk to others in
your life about what you are learning. Keep a diary of your thoughts, feelings and changes. Write
down your goals. Let me know about your progress in being respectful. Let me know when you fall short
of your goals by using abuse or violence again. If I don't know about both your progress and your
mistakes I won't be able to help you.
How long will I need to come for therapy?
I suggest that you attend therapy weekly for at least 5-6 times. If I think that you'll
benefit from more sessions I'll let you know. Together we'll evaluate what you've achieved and decide
together where to go next. Many clients will continue on a less frequent basis for months or even
years. Even if you only come for a few sessions I strongly recommend that you come in for a couple of
follow-up sessions that are each two to three months apart. This will help you strengthen the
positive changes you've made at the beginning.
If I have been charged and I need a letter to take to court can you provide this?
I can provide a letter listing the dates of our sessions and the kind of content we've
covered in general terms. I will also include a statement that comments on your motivation to change
and your commitment to the therapy process. You have a right to see the letter first and let me know
your thoughts. Ultimately the content remains my decision. I am not able to provide an assessment of
your risk level since I would not be objective. When you ask me to be your therapist, I'm working for
you and not the court or anyone else.
How confidential is the information from our therapy sessions?
Everything you share with me is confidential and I need your written permission to even let
anyone know that you are attending therapy with me. However, if I have reason to believe that a
client is a risk to themselves or others I'm required to notify the police and any potential victim.
If I suspect that a child has been abused in any way or is at risk, I'm obligated by law to report
this as well. You have a right to have a copy of anything in your file except for any information
from a third party. A court can subpoena the information in your file.
If I'm not happy with our work in therapy, what can I do about it?
I hope you'll tell me right away. If for any reason you are not comfortable doing this, you
have every right to contact my professional body, the BC Association of Clinical Counsellor's at
Have you had special training to work in this area?
I've worked in this field for over 30 years. I have supervised students and have provided
training across Canada for therapists who work with anger and aggression. I am a faculty member of
City University in Vancouver where I have taught the graduate course in the Counselling Psychology
program entitled Trauma and Violence. I have also been an instructor and course designer for more
than 20 years for the Centre for Conflict Resolution at the Justice Institute of BC. In 2004 I was
the recipient of the BC Association of Clinical Counsellor's
President's Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Profession
What if I still have questions or doubts about coming in for therapy?
Feel free to call me and we can discuss your concerns over the phone. I can arrange a free 20 minute meeting so you can get a feeling as to whether you want to put your trust in me as your therapist. If it feels right, we can schedule a therapy session or you can go away and think about it. Having doubts or hesitating is natural part of looking after yourself. If it doesn't seem like I am a fit for you, I can suggest others therapists or programs for you to consider.
I respect your courage to face yourself and your behavior and find ways to be kinder to others and yourself.