why abuser intervention so often fails


One of the reasons I used to be such a vocal proponent of cancellation of abusers was because I knew that abuser rehabilitation was extremely uncommon, almost unheard of. And if it’s the case that abusive behavior can’t be transformed, it makes perfect sense that cancellation is the correct response to make communities safer.

Lundy Bancroft, one of very few experts in the field of abuse intervention focused specifically on abusers themselves says in his book “Why Does He Do That” that effective intervention requires a careful balance of compassion and push back.

At the time that I read his book in 2016, all I knew in terms of therapeutic modalities was the most common and popular here in North America: client-centered, empathy based, and primarily rooted in attachment theory.

This modality by no stretch of the imagination prepares

practitioners for the task of truly challenging their clients in an effective way. By and large this approach infantalizes clients and sees the driver of client behavior as childhood wounding.

Additionally, it often takes the client as the ultimate authority on themselves.

It’s no wonder that survivor advocates emphasize that therapy is not safe or effective for addressing abuse when this is the dominant paradigm of therapeutic interventions.

This paradigm is not reflective of the reality of human behavior and motivation. Our most sinister behaviors and intentions may often be learned through childhood trauma and wounding, but it’s also the case that these behaviors have benefits-social, financial, emotional, physical, etc. If they did not, it’s unlikely they would be as widespread and common as they are.

There are some realities often not addressed by dominant paradigms of modern therapy:

• That people have mind mapping capabilities and that behaviors often have intentions based on our ability to read others

• That anti-social empathy is a universal human trait

• That it’s common for people to do sinister things even to the people they care about and to have clear intention in doing so

• That we actually are not the greatest authority on ourselves, that we all lack the capacity to fully and honestly self-reflect on our less favorable traits and behaviors

The massive failure of therapeutic interventions to effectively address abuse is rooted in the failure of the dominant therapeutic paradigms in North America to take all of these realities holistically into account.

Learning about alternative modalities that do take these realities into account is what finally made it click for me that the truth is not that abusers are a lost cause-

it’s that we fail to accommodate the full truth of humanity in our interventions.