Strong Emotions and Family Relationships Program (Part 3)

Date endorsed

Contact details:
Kerry Keeley
Address Marymead Child and Family Centre
255 Goyder St.
Suburb Narrabundah ACT
Postcode 2604
Phone 02 6162 5800
Program developer
Terry Norman
Facilitator requirements The program sets out the necessary qualifications and experience required in order to facilitate this program. It also describes the requirements for facilitators to receive supervision and to undertake ongoing professional development, as well as setting out the reasons why two facilitators are necessary.
Target group The program describes the clients for whom the course has been designed, and what criteria they must fulfill. The following paragraph “Who cannot attend”, on page 12, specifies those potential participants who for various reasons would not benefit from the program, or who may seriously impair the ability of other participants to benefit from the course. Page 12 also contains a paragraph concerning the special requirements for mandated clients. Attention has been given to reduce the likelihood and confusion of people being referred to this program when they should attend a behaviour change program.
Is this program available for purchase?
Since this course is presented in a group situation, it draws heavily on the Mutual Aid Model[1]. In accordance with this model, emphasise that the group is not like a school with teachers and students, but that everyone, clients and facilitators alike, are in the group to learn from each other. The implication therefore is that all participants are encouraged to contribute actively to the group, sharing experiences and discussing solutions which they may have devised.  The application of the Mutual Aid Model can only be described and incorporated into a document such as this to a limited extent, and hence the successful implementation of this model is reliant on the training, skills, and openness of the facilitators concerned.

A key focus is to enable the group to discuss the taboos about expressing anger in contemporary society, and its impact on others. Furthermore, it should be recognised that if a client learns something from another group member, it probably has greater credibility than if it had been learnt from a group facilitator. This course is also strongly strengths-based, that is, clients should be encouraged to reflect on the strengths they already have and how these can be employed and extended, rather than a deficit model, which aims to identify client problems.

Although this program does not specifically address issues of domestic violence, it never-the-less incorporates models involving feminist theory and power relations between the sexes.[2]  Feminist theory emphasizes gender and power inequality in opposite-sex relationships. It focuses on the societal messages that sanction a male’s use of violence and aggression, and the gender roles that dictate how men and women should behave in their intimate relationships[3].  It suggests that the causes of intimate partner violence result from living in a society that condones aggressive behaviours perpetrated by men, while at the same time socializing women to be non-violent.

The ‘Duluth Model’ (from Duluth in Minnesota) represents the dominant treatment approach aligned with feminist theory.  While this model is intended as a community wide response, it can provide a useful focus for the present course. This model addresses in particular the following questions:

  •     Why is she (his partner) the target of his violence?
  •     How does his violence impact the balance of power in their relationship?
  •     What did he think he could change by hitting her?
  •     Why does he assume he is entitled to have power in the relationship?
  •     How does the community support his use of violence against her?[4]
As has been mentioned above, while participants in this program will not have a background of domestic violence, anger issues within the family situation are so closely allied with this issue that it has been deemed desirable to have the issue treated throughout the four modules of the program, and particularly in the present module ‘Strong Emotions and Family Relationships’.  This third module includes explicit information about the impact of anger within the domestic and family situation on women and children.

The course also draws on the CARE principles, principles which are being adopted across the whole of Marymead.  CARE, or “Children and Residential Experiences”, is a program which was devised at Cornell University in the USA and is based heavily on attachment theory, as well as being strongly research based[5].  While it was originally designed for children in some sort of residential care, it has a much wider application.  It has six main principles:

  • Developmentally Focused. A primary concern is on the continued physical and emotional development of the child.  This cannot be achieved without physically and emotionally mature parents.
  • Family Involved.  This relates more directly to children in some kind of out-of-home care.  It is recognition of the importance of the child maintaining a relationship with its parents, even if the child is not currently residing with them.  This has an obvious applicability for men who are separated from the mother of their children.
  • Relationship Based. This recognises the primacy of relationships, or attachment, in the continual development of the child, or of the adult.
  • Competence Centred.  This demonstrates a concern with the child’s (or adult’s) ability to possess the necessary skills and attitudes to live a prosperous and fulfilling life.
  • Trauma Informed: The lasting influences of trauma on the ability of people of all ages to function in society is borne in mind when presenting this course.
  • Ecologically Oriented.  This is concerned with the environment in which the child or adult exists, and how the client interacts with their environment.
These principles influence both the relationship between group facilitators and clients, and the relationships between clients and their family members, friends, and colleagues.

This module may appear on a first reading to be highly structured.  However in nearly every activity, participants are being invited to contribute, to discuss, to relate their own experiences, and to consider their own issues in the light of what is discussed rather than treat the course as an academic exercise.  In other words, the success of this program, like many other programs, relies just as heavily on the skills and openness of the facilitators, as it does on what is written in this document.

[1] The Mutual Aid Model is described in detail in Gitterman A., and Shulman L., Mutual Aid Groups, Vulnerable and Resilient Populations, and the Life Cycle, Third Edition, (New York, 2005)

[2] As is noted in the paragraph “Who cannot attend” on page 12, this is an anger management course rather than a course which specifically addresses domestic violence and behaviour change, and therefore perpetrators of domestic violence would be excluded and referred elsewhere.

[3] This issue is treated in Pence, E., & Paymar, M. (1993). Education groups for men who batter. London: Springer

[4] Pence, E., & Paymar, M. (1993). Education groups for men who batter. London: Springer, page xiii

[5] These principles are described in Holden, M.J., Children and Residential Experiences, Creating Conditions for Change, (Arlington, 2009)

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