Domestic violence (also know as domestic abuse, relationship abuse, or intimate partner violence) is an issue that, unfortunately, is quite prevalent in our society. If you have a second, look at the statistics; the numbers are quite staggering. And because of it’s prevalence, it is more likely than not that you will work with clients who are either the victims or perpetrators of domestic violence.
The California BBS wants to ensure that you know the legal and ethical issues that guide your practice when domestic violence presents in the clinical setting. This topic will more than likely appear on the BBS law and ethics exams as well as the CA MFT Clinical Exam.
What can be tested?
The exam may test your understanding of domestic violence as it relates to:
- Couples Counseling
- Child/Elder/Dependent abuse and neglect
- Safety Planning
- Crisis management
Let’s see how you do on this week’s FREE practice question testing your knowledge of domestic violence.
A therapist meets with an 18-year-old woman who arrives at the session with her 2-year-old son. The woman explains that she moved out of her parents’ home about eight months ago and subsequently moved in with the father of her child. She reports that her partner is a great father, but the couple’s relationship is volatile and sometimes becomes physically violent. The woman states, “He is very controlling and questions my every action with our son. If I try to defend myself, we end up in a yelling match that often ends with him hitting me.” What initial actions should the therapist take when considering the legal and ethical obligations in this case?
- Inform the client that the therapist must break confidentiality and report child abuse since the minor is being exposed to domestic violence.
- Provide psycheoducation regarding the cycle of violence and discuss alternative living arrangements.
- Provide psychoeducation regarding the cycle of violence and develop a safety plan for the client.
- Determine the client’s goals for therapy and collaboratively develop a safety plan.
(scroll down for the correct answer)
The correct answer is D.
Answer A is incorrect because we do not have reasonable suspicion of child abuse. A minor in a home with active domestic violence is not sufficient reason to break confidentiality and make a report. We would want to see an indication of child abuse to warrant a report.
Answer B is incorrect because it is unclear the client is interested in pursuing alternative living arrangements. This answer does not honor a client’s self-determination. Psychoeducation would be appropriate, but the second part of the answer makes B wrong.
Answer C is also incorrect because therapists do not create safety plans for their clients. Again, psychoeducation would be a possible answer, but the second part of C is incorrect.
Answer D is the best answer available. It’s unclear what the client wants from therapy. It would be important to gather this information to develop a treatment plan and guide therapeutic interventions. In addition, the second part of the answer is strong because it is collaborative and addresses the safety concerns presented in the question.
How did you do on this question? Does the correct answer and rationale align with your understanding of domestic violence, or did you learn something new? If you have any additional questions, you are welcome to check in with a TDC coach. Our coaches are here to answer your questions and provide support and guidance as you prepare to PASS your law and ethics exam with confidence!
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