Domestic Violence Counseling—Therapy in Alexandria, VA

“I don’t know why I stay. I don’t know why I deserve this. I don’t know why you do this, why we do this, why this keeps happening.” – Celeste

The hit novel Big Little Lies and HBO’s adaptation of it have become a sensation. Laine Moriarty’s page-turner has thrilled readers and viewers alike, but it has also accomplished something very important. Big Little Lies has put a spotlight on the prevalence and dynamics of domestic violence.

(Spoiler alert. Skip ahead if you have not read the book or seen the show)

Celeste, a main character, is the envy of everyone. She has a dream life with friends, children, beauty, money, romance, comfort, and more. Celeste, however, also has a deep secret—her life is not in reality what it appears to be. Her husband hits her.

Anyone who has survived domestic violence knows that things are not always as they seem. The reality that happens inside of a home does not always match the presentation outside of the home. Leaving a violent relationship is much harder than it seems. Often, victims need the support of family, friends, and a skilled therapist to find the safety they need.

The therapists at Thriveworks Alexandria understand how to support people who are experiencing domestic violence. We know what it takes to navigate the dangers and find a place of safety.

Domestic Abuse: A Serious Situation

A person’s home should be the safest place in the world, but for many, their homes are the most unsafe places to be. Domestic abuse has turned their homes into a place of verbal, physical, and/or sexual violence that may or may not explode at any moment.

Violence and the environment if fosters have long-term, serious effects upon their victims. Living in an abusive environment means the body’s fight-or-flight system that naturally responds to danger is engaged often, if not at all times.

The body’s natural response to danger, “is wonderful if you’re in a forest and there’s a bear,” said Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. “But the problem is what happens when the bear comes home every night, and this system is activated over and over and over again, and it goes from being adaptive, or life-saving, to maladaptive, or health-damaging.” When it senses danger, the brain releases cortisol and adrenalin, stress hormones that help the body respond to the threat. However, when these hormones are released too often, they have detrimental effects upon people’s health.

Thus, domestic violence victims face the immediate health problems of injures from the abuse, but also the continuing effects of their toxic, threatening home life.

One woman described the dynamic well, saying, “He would be alternately kind and then fly off the handle for no reason. I always lived in fear of his temper. It was very stressful.”

The Domestic Violence Cycle

This woman’s experience is not unique. While the details of each circumstance may differ, the pattern of domestic violence is almost always the same: romantic or overly nice behavior, followed by tension and blame, followed by abuse, followed by romantic or overly nice behavior again. This cycle can take years, or it can take minutes.

The Honeymoon Phase: This phase is often the what makes domestic violence so confusing and terrible for victims. People’s behavior is rarely abhorrent all the time. Perpetrators of abuse use the good times to fool their victims into thinking, “that was the last time. He apologized and promised. It won’t happen again.”

The Tension Building Phase: At some point, inevitably, the niceties and the romantic gifts are dropped, and tension builds again. Victims often attempt to appease their partners or give into outrageous demands to please them. Victims may even try to shelter their partner from stress and bad news, all in attempt to avert the harm they feel is coming.

The Abusive Phase: Domestic violence may involve physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse—all of which are illegal. The abuse is never the victim’s fault, although perpetrators of domestic violence often blame their victims.

Am I in a Harmful Relationship?

Just as there is often a pattern to domestic violence, there are also early warning signs that a relationship is not healthy or safe. Seemingly odd behaviors that are the first warnings of domestic violence usually center around the idea of control: one partner wants to control what the other thinks, wears, says, does, feels, and more. If the person you are in a relationship with exhibits any of these common signals of future domestic violence, it may be time to seek help.

  • Prohibiting (or showing irritation when) you spend time with family or friends
  • Calling you derogatory names (even in “jest”)
  • Subtly putting you down or being defensive about your talents/abilities
  • Threatening you
  • Coercing you into sex or sexual acts when you have said, “no,” or where you feel uncomfortable
  • Harming you, your kids, or your pets
  • Dissuading you from going to school or working
  • Trying to take away agency, the ability to make decisions—such as what to wear, how to spend money, where to go, and more
  • Blaming/criticizing you for their behavior

Counseling for Domestic Violence

Thriveworks Alexandria counselors understand the dynamics of domestic violence, and they know how to guide victims through pitfalls and dangers of a harmful relationship.

When you reach out to Thriveworks Alexandria, VA know that a person will answer your call and be able to schedule your appointment for counseling. You may even be able to see your therapist within 24 hours. We accept many insurance plans and offer convenient, after-hour appointments because we want to see our clients receive the help they need.

Has an abusive cycle caught you in its trap? Know that it is not your fault and know that we are here to help. Call Thriveworks Alexandria today.

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  • 6076 Franconia Rd, Suite D
    Alexandria , VA 22310

  • Mon-Fri:8AM-9PM