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Working with Protective Emotions

Dubrow-Marshall, Linda; Viliardos, Laura



Jeannette Roddy


Protective emotions are common amongst survivors of domestic abuse and, on the surface, often appear to be “negative.” Whilst in an abusive relationship, a range of overwhelming emotions may be experienced by the victim/survivor including abject fear. “Protective emotions” can shield the person from feeling terrified of the other person and completely powerless by putting the blame on themselves or placing emphasis on self-deficiencies, which could potentially be rectified and restore some feeling of self-control. Shame, guilt, self-criticism, anxiety, and suicidal ideation are explored through the lens of being “protective” against even more painful, overwhelming, and intolerable feelings. It is imperative that therapists have an understanding of why protective emotions have occurred and they must be open to the exploration of these with the client in an empathic, supportive, and congruent way. This can support a deep and helpful therapeutic relationship.


Dubrow-Marshall, L., & Viliardos, L. (2023). Working with Protective Emotions. In J. Roddy (Ed.), Working with Client Experiences of Domestic Abuse (73-87). Routledge.

Publication Date May 11, 2023
Deposit Date Aug 7, 2023
Publisher Routledge
Pages 73-87
Book Title Working with Client Experiences of Domestic Abuse
Chapter Number 6
ISBN 9781003253266