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Family Group Therapy

(46 Posts)
Daisym0use Wed 19-Sep-12 11:36:06


I have been pretty much forced into family therapy through the court system. My ex is an abusive man and clearly gets it from his parents. I know that they just want to get me in a room to tell me what a bad person I am but I don't know what to expect and I'm terrified. I left him years ago bacause of DV but the courts have pretty much ignored that.

Can anyone give me any info as I just don't know what to expect.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 19-Sep-12 12:06:49

Group therapy is not recommended for abusive partners because of exactly what you describe. They will use it as a soap-box to air your alleged faults rather than admit any of their own. However -ironically perhaps - you're one step ahead of the game because you actually do know what to expect. Please don't be terrified, therefore. Any family therapy should be moderated by a professional and they are not stupid and they will not let things get out of hand. They see people like your ex all the time.

I would suggest things like asking if you can go along with a supporter, take along careful notes of everything you want to raise e.g. the DV, stay calm and try not to get distracted, rattled or overly emotional (difficult, I know) but stick to what you want to say. If you think he will make accusations try to anticipate what those will be and have some simple answer ready that says 'not true' but doesn't elaborate. Close him down. If you think he'll go on a charm offensive and play 'Mr Reasonable', work out how you'll deal with that.

Best of luck

Daisym0use Wed 19-Sep-12 12:11:20

Thankyou so much Cogito, your reply was really helpful. I've got a very supportive husband and another family member who will accompany me. I couldn't do mediation because of the DV, the thought alone made me sick.

I'm really going to try and keep myself together and follow your advice.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 19-Sep-12 12:23:07

You never know, sat opposite him in a room with plenty of support around you and a chance to examine him at close quarters, you may start to see him as a contemptible rather than frightening person. If you are calm, dignified and in control rather than him calling the shots, the power will ebb away from him to you. If he does lose his temper, he's stuffed.

Daisym0use Wed 19-Sep-12 12:29:37

I drew up a list of pro's and cons before I agreed to do it (not that I had much if a choice) and I did think that maybe it would be just what it says 'therapy'
I have decided that if he does become abusive I will not continue as I wont allow him to get inside my head again.
It's obviously about the children, he wants to blame me for his shortcomings as a parent so I think he's going to make lots of accusations towards me.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 19-Sep-12 13:02:20

The moderator or mediator will not allow him to become verbally abusive in a session. However, because he knows you very well, he will be pushing various buttons to upset you that possibly won't be so obvious to a mediator. This is the point about closing him down that I made earlier. If, say, he raises a particular incident of his bad parenting and tries to twist the truth he'd be hoping you'd get upset & drawn into an argument. He now sits back and enjoys your discomfort.

Instead this is the point to stay calm, say something like 'your behaviour is your responsibility, not mine'. Repeat if necessary. Be conscious of the triggers - and I'm not pretending it's easy - try your best not to get drawn in and you win the day

struwelpeter Wed 19-Sep-12 13:16:10

It is really unfortunate that you have been put in this position by the court. Cogito's advice is sound, but there is still a real danger that the therapist will start off seeing this as a level playing field between you and your ex. Obviously the abuse skews the picture completely.
Can you talk to someone at your local WA about how to approach this? Or alternatively talk to Respect, who work with abusers and are aware of the way they operate.
I think you have every right to ask whether the therapist has received any particular training in dealing with abuse and specifically some that is approved by Respect - the courts use their accredited courses for perpetrators of DA.
Please read this:
and see what you think in the light of the very good points she makes. I fear that any reticence on your part to tackle issues that may arise in therapy may be seen as obstructive when in fact you could have serious concerns about be abused again.

Daisym0use Wed 19-Sep-12 15:07:20

Thankyou so much, this is all really useful. I do have a contact at WA, I think it would be a good idea for me to go and see her before I go for the FGT. She has really helped me to deal with things in the past. I just hoPe I can keep it together when the event comes. I feel like I've had the air sucked out of my lungs when I'm in the same vicinity as him and get really nervous.
I really wish the court c

Daisym0use Wed 19-Sep-12 15:08:05

oops! I wish the court could have given the DV more understanding

Daisym0use Wed 19-Sep-12 21:25:52

Has anyone gone through FGT? Was it helpful? Did it work? What happens if it doesn't work?

cestlavielife Wed 19-Sep-12 23:56:02

Oh my recent experience demonstrated exactly why this doesn't work yet I still had to go. Have been asking for ages for some help for dds. Finally it ended up with them insisting I attend a triage assessment with ex "we usually see both parents " .
Every other sentence he bagman with " well she was /is abusive to me she did this she did that "
He lied eg " she has not let me se the girls for one year "
Therapist oh when did you last see them
Him this morning, but she is abusive because xxxxxx

No they didn't pull him up really, he was allowed even encouraged to have his say "she is abusvie to me " and they just said oh and um. "i see " "why do you think that? "

I tried to state facts. Eg "there have been
incidents of aggression which have been documented " careful not to say " he is. Xxxxxxx but to state facts. But it was like a form of torture.

I believe I maintained calm but it wasan hour of hell... He seemed to enjoy it . Relished the chance to get his story of my abuse out... Whereas I thought we were there to discuss how to move forward given his dd was reluctant to see due to his aggressive episodes and severe mh episodes.... But anything he had done was my fault he made this clear to the therapists... They just said oh I see and wrote notes.

In follow up phone call to offer appt initially me and girls can go psych said " so i have it written here you don't want to have any sessions with him? And I said no that is not the case it is not about not wanting but simply it is impossible. if you read the notes from the triage appt you will see that it is unreasonable to ask me to attend a joint session with him....

The Only thing you can do is have some set phrases to use, stay calm,and afterwards write down what happened and put in writing to them why it won't work to continue any such sessions.

And be prepard for them to simply say " oh I see " to every accusation he makes is really hard to "defend" oneself when The format allows each person to say what they like and if one takes full advantage to accuse..... Well they get away with it.

They did say at the end well we need to try and move forward now ...

Of course by some miracle your ex might actually want to move forward and work with you and the therapists.... So it could be different....

Ps I did laugh at anew phrase used by ex yesterday by text . Re a change of plan which he felt was solely made to piss him off rather than any logical reason (there was areal reason) (some contact is happening albeit limited) . Instead of the usual " you are abusive to me " "this is abusive to your children and me "

he came up with. " you are utterly despicable "'

I might name change...

Daisym0use Thu 20-Sep-12 11:44:35

Oh Cestlavie, it's sounds horrendous. No my ex just wants a platform to tell me what a bad person I am and it's all my fault the kids want nothing to do with him. He's bullied and terrified the kids but obviously that has nothing to do with it.
I am already practicing the mantra in my head 'stay calm, don't react' repeat!
I was worried it would be that whole therapist nodding and hmming thing though. Really glad I know what to expect though so really appreciate hearing your experience

spookytoo Thu 20-Sep-12 16:59:00

Perhaps you could speak to someone, GP?, who can give the point of view of the therapist. Because the therapist says ' I see' to everything ex says doesn't mean they believe it.

But it seems as though their behaviour is enforcing ex's belief that he is right. Perhaps phone the department or write to ask why it is done this way.

Daisym0use Thu 20-Sep-12 20:33:25

I think my first port of call will be WA, they have more time than the gp.
I feel so nervous but am repeating my mantra!

Mayisout Thu 20-Sep-12 22:19:06

Yes, WA a good idea. They'll know about this stuff.

cestlavielife Thu 20-Sep-12 23:56:27

The point is that a therapist has no point of view so they will listen let people rant ....
And just nod.
Yes they might intervene and ask probing questions but They were oh so careful not to express a view. Which I guess is how they work. And in different circs that can be helpful... eg when both parties need to hear the other persons views in a neutral setting... But not when one person is controlling/manipulative/abusive ....

This happened before in 2008 when I reluctantly agreed to sessions to try and explain I was leaving and to have a "good" separation ( ha no chance )

Eg w hen he slammed his fist on table they said " I can see you feel very strongly about this.., "

This then became " well the therapist said it was ok to smash things.,, "

Later when I saw same therapist on my own they were much more willing to say things in a way which made it clear they agreed he had been/was abusive ......

curiousgeorgia Fri 21-Sep-12 07:40:28

I am a family therapist and I would like to try and set the record straight about systemic family therapy (aka family group therapy and a host of other names).

But first:
What is the context of the therapy you are being asked to attend? Is it for resolution of contact arrangements with DC's?

Daisym0use Fri 21-Sep-12 08:15:08

Hi curious

I'm being asked to attend therapy as a last resort regarding contact with dcs. An agency we are already involved with have already refused to do it because the felt it was unsuitable. The problem is that the children have refused to have contact. I have never witheld contact and have encouraged it. It all seems about control and I think he does have a desire to get me in a room to tell me what a bad person I am. I also think that my ex thinks I can wave a magic wand and 'fix' the problem.
I'm a bit nervous of going into too much detail in case I'm recognised but I had a very miserable marriage. My ex thinks everyone but himself is wrong and it's been heartbreaking to see how badly the contact has affected my children. Contact never worked as my ex became abusive during sessions which made it even harder to get them there the next time. Sorry it's a very long story cobdenced into a few sessions.
I would be grateful for any advice you can offer curious

Daisym0use Fri 21-Sep-12 08:16:25

Sentences not sessions! Sorry still not quite awake!

curiousgeorgia Fri 21-Sep-12 09:16:25

I appreciate your reluctance to go into detail.

What I can say from my understanding of your story is that any family therapist who is asked to see families where DV has been or is a problem would usually specialise in this sort of work and issues of risk and safety are always at the forefront of their thinking. If the couple are still together there would be a 'no violence' contract and if broken the therapy would immediately stop and a safety plan for the woman would have been already formulated, agreed and then actioned. That may be why other posters have heard expressions such as "I see" - to openly challenge a man with a history of violence toward his family if he isn't himself engaged in some kind of therapeutic work would be, quite frankly, mad. But that's not to say that the therapist isn't paying keen attention to the process of the interaction of the individuals and how they relate to each other. Issues of power and control are paid particular attention to and will be viewed relationally and contextually.

From what you say it doesn't sound like 'psychotherapy' is being requested. That's a really important consideration for you to bear in mind Daisy. There's nothing about you that needs 'fixing'. Also bear in mind that sessions would not be about identifying what the 'truth' of the matter is no matter how attached the individual parties are to their version of it - that isn't to say that the facts of the matter will not be believed, but the focus should be on trying to asses if you can work together towards a shared understanding of what the DC's need and want to happen. The therapist should not, therefore, have a fixed idea of the outcome (apart from the needs of the DC's being paramount).

I hope this helps.

cestlavielife Fri 21-Sep-12 10:44:11

that is interesting curiousgeorgia.

"trying to asses if you can work together towards a shared understanding of what the DC's need and want to happen" is a good aim but it should be apparent from one session if this is the case... and i it isnt then what? what next?

i think in cases where pure if you like domestic violence has been documented it is more straightforward if you like - where the abuse is much more about manipulation and control (with maybe a few specific outbursts thrown in) it is less clear - easy to state no physical violence; far harder to say "dont be controlling/manipulative" etc. (can imagine it: "well lets aggree that you wont call her abusive any more"..
"but she is abusive! she did xxx and she did xxxx!"
"oh i see...." )

the fact that the therapist may have been taking on board what was said etc does not make it any easier for the person (me) on the receiving end ....therapy should not be torture... this is where i have a problem with being asked to attaned /with it being suggested that I attend further joint sessions with him - why would i want to put myself thru that? why would i be expected to do that given what they noted? how does it help the children for me (anyone) to sit in a room being insulted/blamed for one hour .... with someone nodding "i see..." to the ex?

when one person is stuck on blame it wont work - i dont blame ex - it happened. point is where now? how can contact be made better? can he commit to not doing certain things which upset dc? (not if he doesnt accept responsibility) . and i dont think I can in any way shape or form help ex - or be expected to help ex - in that process by being part of "family group therapy" .

i can see a point to the dc getting help with coping strategies to deal with dad...

daisy - i do wish you luck and hope it is not too painful - and that if it is as horrendous as my session was; that you are able to discuss after and agree next steps in a differing format...

Daisym0use Fri 21-Sep-12 13:03:42

Thank you so much ladies, to see this from 2 different angles is really helpful.
My ex was more emotionally/mentally abusive although there was some physical abuse towards my dc1 and myself. Our GP and another healthcare professional involved have already said contact should not be reinstated until dc's are of an age they can cope with contact as they have not coped well at all. That would be in 3 or 4 years time. I am comfortable with that but I can't see that I would agree to contact anytime soon which is what they want (the effects on dc's is heartbreaking and I can't deal with it anymore). Perhaps my ex and his parents are doing it for the right reasons but I seriously doubt it.
I'm so glad I asked for advice on here, I really do feel calmer about it now that I know what to expect.
I'm not sure the therapists in question do deal with cases where DV has been an issue. I want to make enquiries to the centre but don't want to look like I'm being manipulative. (3 years in court makes you nervous of very little thing you do!)

Daisym0use Fri 21-Sep-12 13:36:31

Thankyou for the link struwelpeter, I've just managed to find time to read it. It certainly makes me doubt that FGT is the right route to go down. But I feel better prepared being aware so thankyou

cestlavielife Fri 21-Sep-12 14:51:50

there is some stuff in lundy banccroft too.
cant find much immediately specifically on FGT and abuse situations but this paper refers -

"All family therapists, and especially Milan-style systemic therapists, have been trained to take a neutral stance regarding family issues, based on a circular causality model of family interaction. Therefore, when therapists deal with family violence, their ability to perceive individual responsibility for unethical behavior is weakened or suppressed. In fact, this ability is the primary tool in developing effective treatment planning in cases of family violence: The actively physically abusive man needs to be in individual and/or group therapy, not conjoint or family therapy. The ethical judgment of the therapist is what determines the limits of family therapy."

maybe curiousgeorge has some more uptodate lierature?

also thinking specifically i found it hard to draw attention to specific incidents which led to the (most recent) cutting of contact - but when i did raise it eventually he did admit that yes (as one example) he had phsyically attacked DD but it was just a bit of hair pulling and that was totally fine as far as he was concerned - his parents and teachers had pulled his hair when he was young..

the therapist said "oh i see..." and did not, for example, intervene to ask if he thought this might not have been fine for dd, from her point of view, and that this might have contributed to her not wanting to see him and losing trust...

Daisym0use Fri 21-Sep-12 15:10:09

Thanks Cestlavie, it sounds like it might cause more frustration than solve any problems!
Do you know ifwhat is said in the sessions is private or is a report made to court?

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