Summary: This article reports on a project that explored the complexities of engaging and working with men when domestic violence is noticed in a couple counselling context. There are concerns and controversy surrounding domestic violence and couple counselling; however, it has also been noted that many couples want to remain together and voluntarily approach services for couple counselling. The project reported on in this paper adopted a qualitative methodological design influenced by participatory action research ideas and memory work methods to analyse engagement of men used by nine social work family relationship counsellors.
Findings: Counsellors used narrative therapy ideas to maintain a stance of curiosity when working with couples when domestic violence was noticed. Curiosity was described as a way of opening up conversations to explore power differences and gender relations and as a method to balance safety with engagement. Specific engagement strategies identified included identifying ethics as a conversation point to explore the effects of power, violence and fear perpetrated by the male partners; exploring dynamics of power and control in relationships and exploring other possibilities in relationships.
Applications: Alongside debates about the effectiveness and success in domestic violence men’s perpetration intervention programmes, there is a need to look at engagement of men more broadly. Family relationship counselling can be viewed as an opportunity to engage with men where domestic violence is noticed. Engagement of men is an important piece of practice that can potentially set up effective and successful behaviour change when responding to domestic violence.
- domestic violence
- family work
- narrative approaches
- qualitative research
- Social work