Therapy FAQ

Healing from Abuse: How to Find a Domestic Violence Therapist Near You

Domestic violence is a traumatizing experience for both the victim and the witnesses. If you’ve experienced domestic abuse, please know that you deserve to be treated with respect at all times. Whether you’re in an abusive relationship or healing from one, you may benefit from speaking with a domestic violence therapist near you.   Domestic violence […]

isbell oliva garcia grow therapy By Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Updated on Jan 12, 2024

x icon linked-in icon facebook icon instagram icon

Domestic violence is a traumatizing experience for both the victim and the witnesses. If you’ve experienced domestic abuse, please know that you deserve to be treated with respect at all times. Whether you’re in an abusive relationship or healing from one, you may benefit from speaking with a domestic violence therapist near you.  

Domestic violence can include physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and verbal abuse. Although many people associate the term “domestic violence” with abuse from a romantic partner (intimate partner violence), it can also include abuse in non-intimate relationships. For example, someone could be abused by their parents, siblings, children, relatives, or roommates. 

The different types of domestic violence are:

Domestic violence can be geared toward children and adults, including older adults. It also includes intimate partner violence, where someone abuses their current or former partner. 

Many therapists specialize in domestic violence counseling. Domestic violence therapy can help you whether you’re currently in an abusive relationship or are recovering after leaving an abusive home.  

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for immediate help.

What Is Domestic Violence Therapy?

Domestic violence therapy is a form of therapy for people harmed by domestic abuse, whether they were directly affected or a witness to the abuse. Trauma-informed mental health professionals offer these counseling services.

Even after leaving an abusive situation, people may experience psychological issues, including depression, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Talk therapy — also known as psychotherapy — can help people process trauma and cope with their feelings, no matter how long ago the abuse stopped.

Help is here

Find a therapist

Depending on your needs, domestic violence counseling can help you:

This form of therapy can include:

Aside from mental health counseling, support groups, integrative therapy (such as yoga and meditation), and creative therapies (like art therapy) may also be helpful to people healing from abuse.

Who Goes to a Domestic Violence Therapist?

“Therapy for domestic violence can benefit various individuals who have been impacted by domestic violence or abuse of any kind,” says Deborah Harland, MSW, LCSW, a trauma-focused therapist with Grow Therapy. “A person does not have to be the target or even directly involved in the abuse itself as being exposed to abuse towards others is its own form of trauma.”

You can benefit from domestic violence therapy if you:

Domestic violence isn’t always obvious. Emotional abuse, in particular, may be difficult to identify. If you’re unsure whether you’re being abused (or were abused in the past), a domestic violence therapist could help you make sense of your experience.

Can Couple’s Therapy Help Fix an Abusive Relationship?

No. “Couples therapy should not be entered into if there is active domestic violence in the home,” says Harland. 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline also strongly advises against entering couples therapy with an abusive partner.

Although couples therapy can be very beneficial when both partners are committed to reflecting on and improving dysfunctional behaviors, research shows that entering couples therapy with an abuser may worsen the abusive behavior. 

In couples therapy, the victim may be too scared to speak honestly, says Jim Farley, LPC, a Grow Therapy counselor specializing in trauma and abuse. “The client would be afraid to answer questions or bring up issues or even tell the truth in the sessions for fear of what the abuser would do or say in the session and especially when they were alone in private,” Farley explains.

If you’re in an abusive relationship, it may be better for you to seek individual counseling. Family therapy, where a victim (or victims) and their families are treated, can also be helpful. 

However, couples therapy may be beneficial if you’re healing from abuse and are currently in a healthy relationship. Past traumas may resurface in your current relationship, and mental health counseling can help you address your trauma.

What to Expect in Session

The structure of your session depends on the type of therapy your counselor uses. Each type of therapy has a different set of principles and practices. 

During your first session, your therapist will focus on understanding your needs. “Generally, a first session is called an ‘intake’ where any paperwork is completed and a general assessment of what the individual wants to achieve in therapy,” says Harland. 

It’s important for your therapist to understand your circumstances and needs. “The therapist needs to understand what the client wants, and move at the client’s speed,” explains Farley. “If they are not ready to leave, then the therapist needs to start there.” 

A domestic violence therapist may help you develop a “safety plan,” Farley says, which includes “thorough planning on what they need to do before they leave and once they leave, where they are going, and what security they will have.

While helping you develop a safety plan, your therapist may direct you to useful resources, such as a domestic violence shelter, a social worker, or legal help.

Your counselor will allow you to explore your thoughts and feelings in sessions. They usually ask questions that prompt you to reflect deeply. They may also offer information and insights on abuse, mental health, and relationships. 

Therapists may also assign you homework,”such as reflecting or journaling on certain topics, filling out helpful worksheets, or using relaxation techniques to help you cope. If your therapist suggests journaling or worksheets and you’re afraid the abuser will find it and retaliate, it’s OK to tell your therapist that you’d like to try something else.

Often, therapy sessions bring up painful feelings. “Therapy is often an emotional journey that can include some difficult conversations, but can also include great feelings of relief and reclaimed joy when challenges are resolved,” Harland says.

Feeling tired, upset, or angry is common after a domestic violence therapy session. We encourage you to decompress and practice self-care after each session.

How to Find a Domestic Violence Therapist Near Me

You’ve decided to seek help. This is an excellent step — take a moment to celebrate yourself for prioritizing your mental health. 

Next, you’ll need to find a local domestic violence therapist. Grow Therapy’s search tool enables you to find domestic violence therapists that suit your needs. You can choose between online therapy (virtual care) or in-person counseling with a domestic violence therapist near you.

To get started, click the “Find a Therapist” button at the top of our page, or visit this link. Look out for therapists with experience in helping people who have experienced domestic violence or abuse. 

Once you find a therapist that suits your needs, you can use our platform to book a session. 

This is a long path. It will be a difficult journey, but it is worth it to end the cycle of abuse in families that are often generational,” Farley says. “You change yourself and your children’s future by doing this work.

Questions to Ask

As you enter therapy, talking with a potential therapist about their background, skills, and training is a good idea. 

Farley reiterates that it’s important to know your therapist has experience in domestic violence therapy. “Domestic violence is a dangerous area for counseling. The client is most in danger when they are getting ready to leave and after they have left,” he says. If you’re actively in an abusive home or have recently left, it’s essential to find a therapist with experience in creating safety plans. 

Harland suggests asking the following questions:

Harland also notes that asking your therapist about their pricing and payment plans is a good idea. You may also want to check whether your therapist takes your health insurance because many insurance plans cover therapy. When you book through Grow Therapy, you can find a therapist who is contracted with your insurance to help cover the cost.

Additional Resources

Harland emphasizes that help is available. “Domestic violence does not have to define your life,” she says. “You are stronger than you know.”

You can find assistance using the following resources:

Grow Therapy Is Here to Help

No matter what your abuser has said, you deserve to be safe and at peace. Although domestic violence can be severely traumatic, it is possible to heal. 

“You deserve to be happy,” Harland says. “Know that you are worth being treated with respect and kindness by yourself and others. You can make it without the person who has hurt you and told you lies about yourself.” 

Domestic violence counseling can benefit you whether you’re experiencing ongoing abuse or healing after abuse. If you’re looking for a domestic violence therapist near you or one that provides online therapy, try our search tool

FAQs

  • Although these terms are often used interchangeably to refer to someone who has been abused, there are some differences. “Battered woman” is an outdated term and not very inclusive as it only refers to physical violence and only to women.   “Domestic violence victim” doesn’t specify a gender — remember, people of all genders may experience abuse — or a specific type of abuse. Domestic abuse may be physical and/or sexual, financial, emotional, verbal, and mental.  Even the term ‘domestic violence victim' is a less empowering term than a person who has been impacted by domestic violence as 'victim' tends to have a stigma of shame and weakness attached to it. As such, many people use the term “domestic violence survivor.”

  • Domestic violence is traumatic, whether you experience it directly or witness someone else being abused. As with other forms of trauma, domestic violence can cause psychological harm, leading to issues like low self-esteem and persistent fear. Domestic violence can also lead victims and witnesses to develop psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

  • While anybody can engage in abusive behavior, there are certain risk factors for domestic violence. People are more likely to become domestic abusers if they: - Experienced abuse as a child - Abuse substances - Have abused partners in the past - Are men who believe females are inferior - Learned violence from their family, community, or culture - Have anger management issues - Have low self-esteem Abuse is generally driven by an abuser’s need for control over others, according to research.

  • One 2019 study found that women who have experienced domestic abuse are three times more likely to develop a mental illness than those who have not. People who experience domestic violence can develop mental illnesses like PTSD, depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), according to research. Although many people stereotype abusers as mentally ill, people without mental illnesses also commit violence. If your abuser has mental health challenges, remember that their mental illness is their responsibility to address — not yours. Your priority should be your safety. You do not need to put yourself in harm’s way to support your partner.

About the author
isbell oliva garcia grow therapy Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Isbell Oliva-Garcia is a licensed mental health counselor, bilingual in English and Spanish. Isbell specializes in women's issues during difficult times of transition and also works with front-line individuals struggling with PTSD or stressors created by the job.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

x icon linked-in icon facebook icon instagram icon