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.