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Digital Seminar

Domestic Violence: Treatment Strategies to Stop the Cycle and Heal the Pain

Joan Benz, PhD, MSW, LCSW
6 Hours 05 Minutes
Jun 17, 2015
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Digital Seminar
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Clients who are victims of domestic abuse may not be seeing you because they want to escape their abusive home or need treatment for PTSD or trauma. A client who has or is experiencing abuse may be coming to see you for marital issues, anxiety, depression or any other common symptom never revealing the underlying abuse and violence. It will be up to you to uncover their secrets and identify red flags.

How can you deliver truly effective treatment for victims of domestic violence (DV) if you never know they are in a violent relationship?

As a survivor of domestic violence and therapist for over twelve years, I can show you effective, evidence-based treatment strategies for victims of domestic violence. We will discuss strategies to help you identify red flags, get your client to open up about their abuse and develop a safety plan to help them escape their violent home.

We will also explore various therapeutic methods to help your client cope with PTSD, trauma, anxiety and other common issues. Additionally, we will discuss how to treat children who have been exposed to domestic violence and how to help them as adults.

You will never know what goes on at home when your client leaves your office. It is vital to your practice that you know how to recognize red flags and understand strategies that work to help victims of domestic violence.


Continuing Professional Development Certificates
- PESI Australia, in collaboration with PESI in the USA, offers quality online continuing professional development events from the leaders in the field at a standard recognized by professional associations including psychology, social work, occupational therapy, alcohol and drug professionals, counselling and psychotherapy. On completion of the training, a Professional Development Certificate is issued after the individual has answered and submitted a quiz and course evaluation. This online program is worth 6.0 hours CPD for points calculation by your association.



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Joan Benz, PhD, MSW, LCSW, is a survivor of 22 years of domestic violence, and the mother of three sons who witnessed the violence. After escaping from her abusive husband, she spent several years in intensive therapy to recover from PTSD. Dr. Benz then went on to obtain an undergraduate degree in Social Work, Psychology and Sociology, an MSW from The Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy from St. Louis University. Dr. Benz’s dissertation is on the “Life Experiences of Adults Who Witnessed Domestic Violence as Children.” She worked for over 10 years at a non-profit agency where she was a supervisor/ therapist working mainly with children and families that were victims of violence and/ or abuse. She has shared her personal story numerous times and used her experiences to advocate for other victims of domestic violence as a therapist, expert witness and consultant. Dr. Benz now works in private practice as a psychotherapist. Her specialties include domestic violence, couples therapy, OCD, PTSD, trauma and anxiety. Dr. Benz is also an adjunct professor in the MSW program at Washington University in St. Louis teaching Differential Diagnosis, Parent Child Interaction Therapy and Applied Behavior Therapy, and she provides several workshops each year on several topics including domestic violence, working with adolescents, clinical interventions and therapy techniques. She is president of the St. Louis Family Violence Council.


Speaker Disclosure:
Financial: Joan Benz is in private practice. She is an adjunct professor at Washington University. Ms. Benz receives a speaking honorarium from PESI, Inc. She has no relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations.
Non-financial: Joan Benz has no relevant non-financial relationship to disclose.


  1. Describe the dynamics of domestic violence and control tactics used by the perpetrator.
  2. Discover red flags of abuse and how to recognize when domestic violence is occurring.
  3. Utilize strategies to help a victim share their story in the therapeutic session.
  4. Develop a safety plan with the client to help them leave an abusive or violent home.
  5. Demonstrate evidence-based treatment strategies to treat PTSD, trauma, anxiety and other common issues.
  6. Integrate guided imagery, narrative therapy and poetry into treatment for victims of domestic violence.
  7. Discover interventions to help children who have witnessed domestic violence as well as how to help adult victims.


Foundations of Domestic Violence (DV)

  • Typology of the perpetrator
  • Power and manipulation
  • Control tactics used by perpetrator
  • Substance abuse and domestic violence
  • Psychological, emotional, sexual and financial abuse

Assessment & Techniques to Help DV Victims Share their Story

  • Red flags to assess whether violence is occurring or is likely to occur
  • Victim perspective vs. what society assumes
  • 9 things not to say to victims
  • Key concepts to know when working with victims
    • Pressure by others feels like abuse
    • Rational solutions vs. irrational situations
    • Victim must give up the dream before they can leave
    • Victim’s survival instinct to keep abuser happy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Strength-based perspective
  • Empowerment
  • Rapport building techniques
  • Strategies to help a victim leave a violent relationship
  • Safety planning

Evidence-Based Treatment Interventions

  • Assess for PTSD, anxiety, trauma and other mental health issues
  • Trauma-focused CBT
  • Narrative therapy
  • Anxiety ladder
  • Strategies to control unhealthy thoughts
  • Guided Imagery
  • Relaxation skills
  • Mastery over thoughts
  • Strategies for processing the guilt of leaving
  • Poetry/song writing
  • Transition from being a victim to a survivor

Treating Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

  • Common effects: PTSD, anxiety, attachment, distrust, dissociative, behavior issues, anger, guilt
  • Long-term effects from childhood that affect adult relationships
  • Social learning theory and how it applies to DV
  • Will girls become victims and boys perpetrators?
  • Use TF-CBT with children to reduce PTSD
  • Strategies to help process anger toward both the victim and abuser
  • Case studies and real life examples from adults who witnessed DV as children

Prevention and Education

  • Micro and macro approaches to stopping the violence
  • Socialization theory
  • Raising our children with less focus on gender roles
  • Ask the right questions

Target Audience

Addiction Counselors, Case Managers, Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Nurses, Psychologists, Social Workers, and other Mental Health Professionals

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