About Tom Caplan

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Workshop – Family Violence Coordinating Council (FVCC) in Fort McMurray Alberta

On May 23, 2019 I will be doing a one-day workshop for the Family Violence Coordinating Council (FVCC) in Fort McMurray, Alberta entitled Getting Connected: The Therapeutic Engagement and Treatment of Couples with Interpersonal Violence. I will be demonstrating how my Needs ABC Model is used in working with difficult couples.

Caplan, T. (2010). The Needs ABC Therapeutic Model for Couples and Families: A Guide for Practitioners. New York: Routledge.

McGill Domestic Violence Clinic

The McGill Domestic Violence Clinic (MDVC) is a state of the art facility for service provision and student training. It provides counselling on issues related to all forms of violence in intimate relationships and the effect such violence has on families and their social networks. For over 40 years the Clinic has trained graduate students from the disciplines of social work, counselling and psychology, providing them with expertise in individual, couple, family and group therapy using the most up-to-date intervention strategies. In addition to group work (treatment for men and support for women survivors), which is the central focus of the clinic, graduate student interns work with men, women, and where appropriate, their partners or families. At the Clinic, interns receive specialized instruction in the Needs ABC Model (Caplan, 2008, see: www.tomcaplanmsw.com) which espouses an integrative process oriented, emotion-focused pro-feminist approach. Through the School of Social Work student interns take Violence Against Women (SWRK 628, Krane) to deepen their appreciation of the theoretical debates and substantive issues that shape the field of intimate partner violence.

While pursuing an internship at the Clinic, students engage in assessments and offer direct service in multiple formats. Their counseling sessions are video-taped and excerpts are discussed and analyzed during weekly team supervision meetings. The supervisory team and student interns can also draw on other faculty members for consultation. All MSW interns undertake independent study projects related to some aspect of violence in intimate relationships.

There are exciting opportunities for PhD students to become involved in the clinic for professional training as well as research undertakings. Additionally, the Clinic is a training center for established clinicians and supervisors interested in meeting the requirements for membership in the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.

The McGill Domestic Violence Clinic continues to lead the way in providing graduate students with the most up to date instruction, training and information on intimate partner violence, psychotherapy, intake and screenings. There are boundless opportunities for professional growth at the Clinic!

The Needs ABC Model – Supportive Challenging & Responsibility-Taking

There are strong reasons why men who batter would be resistant to treatment through group therapy.  Domestic violence involving physical injury is legally defined as a punishable behavior.  Because many batterers are implicitly required to participate in treatment groups through their involvement with the legal system, group work may be seen by them as a form of punishment.  Jenkins (1990) posits that men who batter externalize responsibility and therefore minimize the importance of treatment.  Indeed, batterers frequently hold their partners accountable for “provoking” the violence and are often puzzled as to why their partners are not also in treatment.  Thorne Finch (1992), in discussing the social construction of masculinity, suggests that society has so legitimized violence against women that batterers might perceive treatment groups as ludicrous.  Gondolf (1993) and Star (1983) describe a consistent profile of batterers as men with low self-esteem and insufficient knowledge of social skills; feelings of inadequacy might cause these men to fear exposure in a group setting. Many batterers request individual treatment, reflecting this anxiety.

Further, writers generalize that many men perceive group work in a negative way.  Sternbach (1990) writes that long standing patriarchal constructs of masculine autonomy and competition have traditionally made disclosure, emotional expression and vulnerability among men in a group difficult.  Strauss and Gelles (1992) in their research also point to autonomy and control as important aspects of men’s modus vivendi; group work challenges these precepts.  Goldberg Wood and Middleman (1992) describe the resistance to changing one’s world view as a constant struggle for men in treatment groups.  World view refers to one’s perception of self in relation to others and one’s meaning in society; it is one’s personal philosophy, and it mandates one’s behavior.

A logical progression from the above notions is that many men who batter perceive entry into a treatment group as: 1) punishment to be either avoided or stoically endured; 2) a threat to their masculine identity and world view, which may include having a dominant role in a relationship or family; and 3) an attack on their already diminished capacity for self-worth.  It could be imagined that batterers contemplating entry into a treatment group stand at a cross roads. On one side lies the desire for a “second chance” through learning new ways to behave, but on the other side lies a vision of being mortified in the presence of a group of men through coerced humiliating admissions of failure and inadequacy.

Because the consequences of domestic violence are so serious, very often brutal, and sometimes irreparable, treatment for batterers requires an environment where clients feel reassured enough to talk casually but candidly about themselves.  Effective treatment engages these men in non-defensive conversations about their behaviors and life experience.  The Needs ABC Model creates and maintains an environment in which men and women can consider more productive problem-solving options.