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Developing Restorative Relationship Therapy: Towards Working Safely with Couples Where There is Abuse

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This article describes the journey of a counselling agency in its attempt to develop a safer form of working with couples where there is abuse; a "couple counselling in safe mode". Within an object relations and attachment based perspective, we sought to work therapeutically and systemically, with the "relationship as client", rather than being perpetrator focused. This was achieved without reducing our commitment to the well-being of the "identified abused". Restorative and invitational practices were utilised, drawing on the work of Allan Jenkins (1990, 2009). Part of this approach involved working with "shame without shaming". Using colleagues engaged in the work as a focus group, we developed a reflexive praxis. This led to practice modifications in our approach to confidentiality, supervision, group supervision, and risk assessment. In terms of technique, we introduced co-working dyads of therapists for each relationship, each partner being assigned their own therapist. We also adopted "time out training" as a way of managing tensions in the couple. A four-way session was inserted after every three sessions of individual work with each partner, borrowing a "Reflecting Team" format from family therapy. We argue that we have developed a safe and effective precursor to mainstream relationship counselling for couple relationships where there was mild to moderate abuse and have termed this Restorative Relationship Therapy (RRT).

Keywords: DOMESTIC ABUSE; MASCULINITY; OBJECT RELATIONS; PRAXIS; PROFESSIONAL DANGER; RELATIONSHIP COUNSELLING; RESTORATIVE PRACTICE; RESTORATIVE RELATIONSHIP THERAPY; RISK ASSESSMENT; SHAME WITHOUT SHAMING

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2019

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  • Couple and Family Psychoanalysis aim is to promote the theory and practice of working with couple and family relationships from a psychoanalytic perspective. It seeks to provide a forum for disseminating current ideas and research and for developing clinical practice.
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