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Understanding Coercive Control: Personal Insights and Professional Counselling Approaches

Updated: May 6

As someone deeply embedded in the counselling field, my journey into understanding coercive control has been profoundly influenced by the work of Dr. Evan Stark who has sadly, recently passed away. Attending conferences globally, where I absorbed the discourse and debates surrounding his theories, has reshaped my approach to supporting victims. In this blog, I explore coercive control, its legislative context, the pioneering contributions of Dr. Stark, and the indispensable role of counselling in healing and empowerment.

The Nature of Coercive Control

Coercive control is an insidious form of domestic abuse that extends beyond physical violence it involves a pattern of behaviour by which one person seeks to control another through threats, humiliation, isolation, and other psychological tactics. The impact is devastating, stripping victims of their autonomy, liberty, and sense of self-worth.

Legislative Recognition

In the UK, the introduction of the Serious Crime Act 2015, was a watershed moment, criminalising coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate and familial relationships. This legislation acknowledged that the harm inflicted by psychological abuse could be just as severe as physical violence. As I followed the evolution of this legislation, it became clear that understanding the legal framework was crucial for providing comprehensive support to those affected.

Dr Evan Stark's Impact

Dr Evan Stark's book "Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life," was a revelation to me. His perspective that domestic abuse should be seen not just by physical attacks but as a pattern of behaviour that restricts a person's freedom resonated deeply. At conferences where Dr Stark spoke, I was struck by his depiction of abuse as a liberty crime, akin to torture. His insights have been instrumental in how I frame my counselling sessions, focusing on the broader context of victims' lives and the psychological barriers they may face.

The Professional Approaches of Counselling

Counselling victims of coercive control is about much more than just talking through feelings. It involves:

1. Validating Experiences: One of the first steps in recovery is affirming that what victims have experienced is real and severe. Understanding coercive control's dynamics helps me provide this validation.

2. Rebuilding Self-Esteem: The erosion of self-esteem is one of the most damaging effects of coercive control. Through counselling, we work on rebuilding a victim's self-worth and autonomy.

3. Empowering Independence: Supporting victims in becoming independent, both emotionally and practically, is vital. We explore everything from financial independence to social reconnections.

4. Trauma Recovery: The psychological impact of living under constant control

can be traumatic. Addressing this through specific therapeutic professional approaches is crucial for long-term healing.

5. Safety and Planning: For those in immediate danger, developing a safety plan is a priority. This planning is a critical part of the support part of the support process, ensuring that leaving an abusive situation is as safe as possible.

Personal Reflections

Reflecting on my professional journey, the conferences and workshops I attended globally, where Dr Stark and other experts shared their knowledge, have not only enriched my understanding but also deepened my commitment to this cause. Coercive Control can shatter lives, but with informed and empathetic support, recovery is possible. My goal in every session is to help individuals reclaim their lives from the shadows of control and fear.

The challenges are significant, but the rewards are seeing a person rebuild their life of their own terms are immeasurable. As we continue to evolve our legal and social support systems, we must keep the voices of victims at the forefront, ensuring they receive the respect, support and freedom they deserve.

"Reclaiming your life from coercive control is not just about finding the strength to leave, it's about rediscovering the courage to live freely and authentically. Every step you take towards regaining your autonomy is a step towards the life you were meant to live."


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