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Working with Protective Behaviours

Dubrow-Marshall, Linda; Dubrow-Marshall, Rod


Rod Dubrow-Marshall


Jeannette Roddy


Domestic abuse survivors sometimes present in counselling with a series of self-destructive behaviours that at first glance might seem mentally unhealthy and may inhibit understanding, empathy, and compassion from the psychotherapist. These behaviours can include a variety of self-harm behaviours, addictive behaviours, ambivalence, and the perplexing pattern of staying with and returning to the abuser. Psychotherapists can find these behaviours very frustrating especially if they have been working with the client for some time, seen good progress, only to see them slipping back into self-destructive behaviours, leading to intense countertransference. This chapter will examine these behaviours from the perspective of ‘protective behaviours’, similar to the concept of ‘protective emotions’ where the behaviours serve the function of protecting the client from overwhelming pain and intolerable feelings. The therapeutic value of exploring the meaning and purpose of the behaviours with the client in an empathetic and compassionate which will aid their recovery much more than labelling the behaviours as pathological and self-destructive.


Dubrow-Marshall, L., & Dubrow-Marshall, R. (2023). Working with Protective Behaviours. In J. Roddy (Ed.), Working with Client Experiences of Domestic Abuse (88-100). Routledge

Acceptance Date May 11, 2023
Publication Date Jun 30, 2023
Deposit Date Feb 1, 2024
Publicly Available Date Dec 31, 2024
Publisher Routledge
Pages 88-100
Book Title Working with Client Experiences of Domestic Abuse
Chapter Number 7
Keywords coercive control, domestic abuse, protective behaviours, psychotherapy
Publisher URL


This file is under embargo until Dec 31, 2024 due to copyright reasons.

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