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Role of Psychotherapist in addressing domestic violence towards children  

In discussing the role of a psychotherapist in domestic violence towards children. Discuss prevention and interventions that can be can be adopted that can help these kids in a domestic violence situation.

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 Role of Psychotherapist in addressing domestic violence toward children 

Domestic violence towards children is usually perpetrated by someone close to the child. The fact that the act is called domestic means that the person committing the violence is either a family member, a close relative, and sometimes even close family friends. In most cases, children exposed to domestic violence tend to experience emotional, mental, and social damages, which can potentially affect their growth and development stages. For example, while some children might become withdrawn, others might lose the ability to empathize with others as others feel as though they are socially isolated, hindering their ability to make friends. 

Psychiatric Disorders in Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

According to Pelcovitz et al. (2000), there is a strong connection between abuse and some of the prevalent psychiatric diagnoses done in the mental health department of many facilities. The detriments of domestic violence affect children who have been exposed both directly and indirectly, including those who have witnessed inter-parental violence, especially adolescents. For example, children exposed to inter-parental violence usually exhibit signs of academic difficulties, with many of them struggling with behavioral and emotional problems, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic disorder, as well as aggression and stress. Additionally, children who have been directly abused and witnessed inter-parental violence tend to struggle with behavioral problems such as aggression. Many of them may also show symptoms of depression and anxiety (Pelcovitz et al., 2000).

Children who are double exposed to domestic violence are at a high risk of developing psychiatric disorders, as posited by Pelcovitz et al. (2000). These children include those who have experienced domestic violence and have witnessed first-hand from the people close to them, including their parents or close relatives. Most importantly, this is a very depression is one of the prevalent psychiatric disorders associated with abuse and violence, especially in a family setting. Even though other disorders such as PTSD, stress as well as anxiety are related to domestic violence, it is important to note that the degree of abuse impacts several aspects of a child's life. For instance, some children are abused by their parents or witness marital violence for a very long time, shaping their behavior and feelings towards others. In this case, some children become non-empathetic and, in most cases, do not recognize when they are happy or sad, or they simply cannot express their emotions. 

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The Role of a Psychotherapist in addressing domestic violence towards children

           Psychotherapy involves approaches that can help individuals struggling with various psychiatric disorders. It is usually facilitated by a psychotherapist whose main role is to assist people suffering from mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD as well as stress. In domestic violence, a psychotherapist is tasked with helping children who have developed psychiatric disorders emanating from their experiences directly or indirectly with domestic violence. These include children who have been diagnosed with PTSD, depression, stress as well as anxiety resulting from exposure to domestic violence. In this case, the psychotherapist has to use therapeutic approaches geared towards alleviating the children of their symptoms, such as psychoanalytic, behavioral as well as humanistic, cognitive, and holistic therapy. Callahan and Dittloff (2007) posit that psychotherapists should listen to their clients and empathize with their situations while putting them as the main focus. Using an appropriate approach would give a psychotherapist an ideal picture of how to provide psychotherapeutic help to their clients; in this case, children exposed to domestic violence. 

Short-term and Long-term effects of domestic violence on children

The effects of domestic violence, whether short-term or long-term, vary across age groups. For example, preschool children who are double exposed to domestic violence tend to have problems concentrating in class; their appetites might change and generally become more fearful. Additionally, they might become antisocial and prefer staying at home rather than going to school. Similarly, some of the short-term effects of domestic violence on adolescents revolve around a change in mood as well as behavior, with some becoming passive-aggressive. Additionally, the long-term effects of domestic violence are grave to both young children and adolescents. For instance, some of the impacts include developing psychiatric disorders such as depression or PTSD that might affect their future relationships as they may develop the difficulty to trust anyone (Pelcovitz et al., 2000). This might, in turn, make it inherently difficult for them to forge future intimate relationships, or even when they form them, they may not know how to manage them as a result of being exposed to domestic violence. 

Prevention and Interventions

Domestic violence typically robs the victim of the opportunity to thrive in a safe environment. In most cases, they protect their perpetrators because they are people close to them or even threaten them. Looking at a study done by Pelcovitz et al. (2000), the primary prevention strategy for domestic violence is to create a condition or environment that makes violence less likely to happen. Additionally, a secondary prevention strategy may be applied to prevent domestic violence from occurring. For instance, this strategy includes intervening or responding to domestic violence in the sense that it stops violence that has already occurred from happening again. Some of the actions that can be taken include getting shelter away from the perpetrator, providing counseling to domestic violence victims, getting protective orders such as a restraining order against the perpetrator, and coming up with safety plans.

Tertiary prevention activities can also be beneficial in preventing domestic violence. This includes activities geared towards ongoing support of the domestic violence victims as well as the culpability of their perpetrators, where they get to answer for their crimes in a court of law. Some of these tertiary activities address the long-term impacts of domestic violence. They include enrolling in support groups for the survivors to heal from the harm and any other psychiatric disorders they might have developed during the ordeal. Another activity includes an intervention program for abusers to deter them from continuing to commit the heinous act against their loved ones, especially in children's presence. 


Domestic violence in children has become rampant and is among the serious social issues affecting many families worldwide. It is highly attributed to psychiatric disorders and affects development and growth. Children who are double exposed to domestic violence are at a higher risk of developing psychiatric disorders than children who are not double exposed in the sense that they witness and experience domestic violence. Some of the mental illnesses that result from domestic violence in children include anxiety, depression, PTSD, and stress. These can lead to a change in behavior, mood, appetite, and socialization. To prevent domestic violence, it is important to use approaches that prevent the violence from occurring or prevent the perpetrator from committing the heinous act. 







Callahan, J. L., & Dittloff, M. (2007). Through a Glass Darkly: Reflections on therapist transformations. Professional Psychology; Research and Practice, 38(6), 547-553.

Pelcovitz, D., Kaplan, S. J., DeRosa, R. R., Mandel, F. S. & Salzinger, S. (2000). Psychiatric Disorders in Adolescents Exposed to Domestic Violence and Physical Abuse. American Journal of Orthopsychiatric Association, 70(3), 360-369.

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