Our model for helping men who have issues with violent behavior

1 Individual counseling

In his first counseling session, the client learns about Miessakit ry and its operations, the practical aspects of counseling, and the methods employed by our counselors at Lyömätön Linja. The counselor also introduces himself and his professional and educational background. On average, clients attend five individual counseling sessions.

Assessing client’s needs

At the start of counseling, the needs of the client and his immediate family are assessed. Intimate partner violence is best processed when all those impacted by the violent behavior receive help. The client learns about services for adults and children who have suffered from violence. This ensures that all members of the family can recover from the violence they have experienced or witnessed.

The client describes his experiences with violent behavior, his current condition, the challenges he is facing in the near future, and related psychological stressors. Factors that influence violent behavior include, for example, drug-use, family relations, living conditions, and employment situation. Personal factors that predispose to violence include the client’s personal background, former relationships, family dynamics during childhood, and other relationships. The counselor also assesses other factors and patterns of thought that influence the client’s violent behavior and allow it to continue. The goal is to form an understanding of the client’s experiences of both using and being subjected to violence and of the formative events of his life.

The counselor and client agree to begin the process of counseling or to seek other services if it proves a more suitable alternative for the client. Alternative routes may include services that treat acute substance abuse issues or the assessment of needs for other forms of treatment. Lyömätön Linja focuses solely on intimate partner violence.

Processing violence

The client gives a detailed account of his most recent experience of violent behavior. He describes the setting, the events leading up to the act of violence and the interactions between the people involved, as well as the forms of physical and psychological violence used and their effects. Processing the chain of events that preceded the use of violence enables the client to identify recurring behavioral patterns and situations where an alternative approach could have de-escalated the conflict. Even if children have not been the direct victims of violence, their wellbeing is always taken into consideration.

With the help of the counselor, the client continues processing the experience, analyzing the actions, thoughts and emotions related to his violent behavior. The goal is to investigate and question the ideas and interpretations that have led to the use of violence.

Preventing intimate partner violence

Anticipating situations that may elicit a violent response and learning new ways to react supports non-violent behavior. The client learns to recognize such situations and the emotions that precede them. As the counseling progresses, the client develops a deeper understanding of his violent behavior and learns self-control. The link between his emotions and actions becomes clearer and he learns to recognize his boundaries and defend them without resorting to violence. These are crucial steps toward change.

Supporting non-violence

Following up on the client’s progress is crucial in supporting non-violent behavior. After his final session, the client is asked to give feedback on his experience with the counseling. Again, after six months, the client receives a feedback form via email following up on his experiences after the counseling. The feedback forms help the client assess how he has met the goals set at the beginning of his sessions and recognize the changes in his life, wellbeing, and ability to control his behavior. The client can contact his counselor in case he feels the need for additional help or wishes to continue his counseling process.

After the last counseling session, the counselor assesses the client’s needs for other services. The client can supplement the individual counseling with couples counseling and group meetings in order to support his commitment to nonviolence.

• Building the foundation for client-counselor relationship
• Assessing client’s psychological resources for change
• Reviewing client’s history of violent behavior and experiences of being subjected to violence
• Assessing current propensity for violence and need for support, taking into consideration client’s experiences of violence
• Setting a shared goal with counselor and providing an initial description of mechanisms behind violent behavior
• Deepening understanding of core problem
• Providing experiential techniques that support behavioral changes
• Providing further knowledge and understanding of violence and its effects
• Possible co-operation with other service providers
• Assessing progress and appropriateness of methods
• Assessing results and need for further counseling
• Processing emotions related to the conclusion of counseling
• Scheduling a follow-up session

2 Couples counseling

Couples counseling can be offered to supplement individual counseling. Before the first session and for the whole duration of the process, two questions need to be considered: Can the meetings be arranged safely, and do they encourage the client to abstain from using physical or psychological violence? Couples can attend a single meeting or consider a more comprehensive process of counseling, comprising five sessions on average. Before the couple can begin their counseling process, the counselor meets the male client one-on-one at least once.

Couples counseling is aimed at supporting the client in giving up violent behavior. The experiences and opinions of the spouse – as well as the couple’s children – can highlight issues that may prove relevant to the client’s individual process in counseling. The couple can agree on preventative measures in case threatening situations arise. The couple also discusses questions related to safety and communication in the relationship. They also learn about ways to get help for the spouse and children from other service providers. Even if children have not been the direct victims of violence, their wellbeing is always taken into consideration.

Guidelines for couples counseling

The client learns about the guidelines for couples counseling in his individual sessions and the couple agrees to them in their first joint session.

  1. Both parties attend counseling voluntarily. If either one feels forced to attend, the meetings will not be organized or continued.
  2. The client has processed his own violent behavior with sufficient depth. If he is unable to recognize the part he plays in conflicts and does not take responsibility for his violent behavior, a meeting with his spouse will not be organized.
  3. The couple is able to face each other without resorting to excessive arguing or criticism. It is important that the couple can process their experiences with violence in a safe environment. If the relationship is severely strained, a meeting may lead to further acts of violence. In such cases, the couples counseling is suspended, and the client continues his sessions with the counselor on his own. The counselor supports the spouse in seeking help from other healthcare service providers. The couple may continue their joint counseling later after due consideration.
  4. The couple has a sufficiently shared understanding of violence and their relationship problems. If the couple is unable to hear and accept each other’s views, especially when they conflict with their own emotional experience, the meetings will not be organized or continued.
  5. The couple’s expectations and goals for the counseling are correspond sufficiently. For example, if one prefers to discuss the practical aspects of separation while the other is focused on working on the relationship, organizing a meeting has no utility.

One-time meeting

The couple can attend a single counseling session together if it can be deemed to support the client’s progress in individual counseling.

The meeting allows the spouse to express her views and experiences of the client’s violent behavior and the state of their relationship. The spouse may also provide important insights into the situation by relating how the couple’s children have been affected by violence. The client is present and takes part in the discussion, but the focus is on the spouse. The meeting may bring about important facts about the relationship that help the counselor in supporting the client to adopt a non-violent approach.

Extended couples counseling

An extended process of counseling includes on average five meetings: one session every 2 to 4 weeks. The counselor observes the threat of violence and changes in the relationship that occur during and between sessions. If necessary, the couples counseling will be terminated.

The couple, with the support of the counselor, defines goals for their counseling process. However, it is often necessary to limit the topics that will be addressed during the sessions. Couples counseling allows the couple to relate their individual views about the conflicts that occur in their relationship. The goal is to gain an understanding of the causes of these conflicts and why they cannot be resolved verbally. If he detects any harmful behavior during meetings, the counselor intervenes, identifies the behavior and prevents the conflict from escalating.

3 Lyömätön Linja peer group

The group consists of 5-8 men and two counselors. Prior to beginning group work, clients attend individual sessions with a counselor.

The counselors will interview clients who are interested in participating in the group. The purpose of the interview is to explain the practical aspects of group work and what the client can expect from it. The counselors also assess the client’s motivation and suitability for group work.

Conditions for attending the group

The client is motivated to process his problem with aggressive behavior in a group setting.

The client is able to commit to the group at minimum for 2 months and up to 18 months.

Group work guidelines

No specific themes are set for the group. Group work begins with a member of the group relating their ongoing or past experiences.

The floor is open. Anyone can share their experiences and feelings freely. You may – and should – ask questions about and comment on the experiences other members share in the group.

The goal of the group is to find non-violent ways of acting in a relationship. Secure relationships, safe parenting and men’s wellbeing are common topics discussed in the group.

Individual sessions or couples counseling will not be offered during group work.

Members will provide feedback on the group twice a year and six months after the group has ended.

If a member wishes to leave the group during the process, he must inform the group at least one month in advance, ensuring that the group can process the situation and find a new member.