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Intervention for Emotionally Abusive Relationships

The most common form of intervention is when a group of people confront someone in trouble to make a decision. The individual can enroll in a treatment program or face the consequences of not seeking treatment. Often this form of intervention is very persuasive and provides clarity to the individual that needs help.

However, this kind of intervention does not work in all situations. For example, when someone lives in an emotionally abusive relationship, he may not respond well to conversation laced with ultimatums. Using this approach may do more harm than good and could lead to tragedy for everyone involved.

The Hidden Form of Abuse

Most people know the symptoms and often see the signs of physical abuse. Those who suspect physical abuse is happening can step in and do something about it. Emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse, and it can be a little harder to spot, as the damage may not appear on the surface of the skin. According to Psychology Today, emotional abuse undercuts a person’s foundational self-confidence and love of self and replaces them with confusion about self-worth, value, justice, mercy, and love.1

Emotional abuse may be experienced in the following ways:

  • Name calling
  • Intimidation
  • Isolation
  • Restriction of personal freedom
  • Shaming
  • Threats
  • Insults
  • Lying

The vast majority of this abuse happens behind closed doors, but people who live in this kind of environment may exhibit public signs such as nervousness, depression or acting in unpredictable ways. The victim of emotional abuse might even seem afraid of his or her partner, yet unable to break free from the damage that is taking place.

Is Emotional Abuse Really A Problem?

Man Drinking Wine With Sad Family In BackgroundEmotional abuse can leave people feeling so broken and filled with uncertainty that they’re unable to sleep. In some cases, they may even feel unable to think and unable to be happy. Despite wanting to live a normal, rewarding life, the abuse leaves these individuals physically unable to do so.

Drug abuse and emotional abuse are deeply intertwined. In a recent piece in The Washington Post, writer Leigh Stein says, “Studies have shown that psychological abuse can actually sustain the relationship, as the victim becomes consumed with self-doubt, depression and low self-esteem.”2 The connection between depression and substance abuse has been clearly identified. Under the weight of emotional abuse, one begins to feel very sad or hopeless, and substance abuse becomes a way to self-medicate.3

In many cases, the people who are abused and those who do the abusing seem to lean on substances of abuse. Those who perpetrate abuse might find the task easier to accomplish as being under the influence reduces their inhibitions. After the abuse takes place, the victim is likely to cope by taking drugs or alcohol, and the cycle of substance abuse continues.

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Help Is Available No Matter Where You Are

Emotional abuse is problem that can seem impossible to solve, but the good news is that comprehensive therapy can be remarkably helpful. This form of therapy can take place individually or in a group setting. Participants work on regaining and healing self-esteem, improve communication, problem solving.

If you have any questions about how this process works, please call our helpline at Skywood to get more info at 269.280.4673.

No Problem is Too Difficult To Solve

The problem can seem impossible to solve, but comprehensive therapy, involving both the abusive partner and the survivor of that abuse, can be remarkably helpful. For example, in a study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, couples who went through therapy together were able to improve their communication skills and their problem-solving techniques, and they developed happier relationships while they lowered the amount of substances that they took.

In short, both partners got better, and they stayed together. This is a remarkable outcome, but it might never come to be if families don’t step in and point out that a solution is possible. An intervention can make it happen.

What to Say

Reaching out to a survivor of emotional abuse takes great care. It is wise to avoid any command-based phrases such as:

  • You should
  • You must
  • You have to
  • I will make you

In most cases, it is likely that your emotionally-abused friend or loved one is afraid, so statements that begin with the above are fear-driven statements. People in abusive relationships rarely respond to commands. After all, they spend most of each and every day dealing with the demands of their abusers. They have become adept at deflecting, denying and hiding.

A better approach involves getting educated. Families can discuss any visible evidence of abuse, just like any evidence of substance abuse. Families may decide to talk about treatment through the form of an intervention. An organized conversation like this might end without an explicit promise that the person will enter treatment. In many cases, an interventionist can be very helpful in planning and facilitating getting your loved one the help she needs.

stop domestic violenceAn intervention like this might end without an explicit promise that the person will enter treatment. But the family can continue to call, email, visit, and write letters expressing love and support. They’ll work to break down the walls of isolation that keep these people in their relationships, and they’ll point out how valuable the person is to those who would not perpetrate any type of abuse.

Emotional abuse is serious problem. If you see this form of abuse taking place, reporting the problem to law enforcement officials could very well save a person’s life. In some cases, this might be the only time in which a family can take specific and dramatic action. Otherwise, their role is to love, support and educate.

Here at Skywood, we can connect you with a family mediator who can help you to understand how abusive relationships work. We have a number of professional interventionists ready to help. Please call our helpline, 269.280.4673, to find out more today.


1 Jantz, Gregory. “What Is Emotional Abuse?” Psychology Today, Accessed June 12, 2018.

2 Stein, Leigh. “He Didn’t Hit Me. It Still Was Abuse.” The Washington Post, Accessed June 12, 2018.

3 Zwolinski, Richard. “Depression and Substance Abuse: The Chicken or The Egg?” Psych Central, Accessed June 12, 2018.