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How we have educated ourselves about working with aggressors

7. 3. 2016
In the past we have contributed to opening up discussion of therapy for violent persons in the Czech Republic. When we were still a program at the League of Human Rights, we made our expert contributions to the  “Safe Coexistence” (Bezpečné soužití) conference. We have been working with violent persons for more than five years now and we are constantly educating ourselves in this area. The arrival of new staffers here at Persefona was a good opportunity to refresh the entire team’s knowledge in this field.    

We called on our colleagues at the SOS Center Diakonie, who designed an intensive course for us on the topic of “Violence in the Family – Working with a Violent Person”. Between 3 and 5 February, thanks to our project entitled “Escape from the Maze of Violence”, we were educated on both the practical and theoretical levels of aggression in a family environment. That project was supported by the Open Society Fund Prague’s program “Let’s Give (Wo)men a Chance programme”, financed from the Norway Grants.

In the beginning we reviewed the theory of how violent behavior arises and the essence of aggression in general. The lecturers then familiarized us with the principles of working with violent persons and the approach to take towards them during first contact and interviews. There was room for us to compare our standards and for discussion. There is no doubt that the training also impacted us as individuals. The personal dimension of this work is no less significant than the theoretical dimension. An important prerequisite for successfully working with such a client is to ask oneself the question:  How can I establish a relationship with a person who does things that I do not approve of? In the beginning, many concerns or even dilemmas may arise during such work. The opportunity to speak with those who were faced with this same issue years ago was an opportunity for us to sift through our own attitudes.   

In the next phase of the training we reviewed the principles of leading motivational interviews, including practical examples. Representatives of the SOS Center clarified for us the differences between various forms of therapy from the perspective of their aims, obstacles, inherent principles and processes. The SOS Center implements  therapy for couples, for groups of couples or groups of individuals, and for individuals. Each approach is appropriate for a different situation and involves its own specifics.  At Persefona we offer a group program and individual treatment focused on managing aggression, so those approaches are pivotal for us. The ideal case is that individual therapy becomes a springboard for other types of therapy. That is what we base our work on. Currently, clients come to us for individual sessions, but we also prepare the conditions for beginning group work. It has been an advantage for us to focus on group therapy much more in detail.     

The SOS Center Diakonie has almost six years of experience with this. During that time they have amassed a great deal of inspiration. The course lecturers have reflected on what works best and what is best avoided. They themselves were surprised at how effectively a group can aid its individual members within a relatively brief time. The role of the therapist consists primarily of creating a confidential, safe environment that liberates the client from his inhibitions when it comes to speaking about this problem. “They can speak about things they have never talked about before. In group therapy this is the most important investment,” the lecturers confirmed, adding that if a client manages to make that investment, he can best profit from it and be appreciated by the others in the group as well. The openness of communication in the group aids newcomers with taking responsibility for their behavior and naturally urges others to share “healthy” ways of addressing situations that they themselves have tested. This advice works very well in practice. We also learned about exercises and techniques used by therapists and about output ratings for therapy.    

In conclusion, we agreed that thanks to the modeling of situations and the case studies we reviewed, we have completed a very “lively”course that we will not soon forget. As we noted above, this course aided us in our personal development as well as our professional develpoment. “I got valuable experience from the model situation, during which I was able to attempt viewing things from the other side. I was given room to name my own limits when it comes to working with a violent person and then to work on those limits,” lawyer  Hana Jandová said.

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