Testing the Abuser
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
Emotional, Verbal, and Psychological Abuse, Domestic and Family Violence and Spousal Abuse
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It is clear that each abuser requires individual psychotherapy, tailored to his specific needs on top of the usual group therapy and marital (or couple) therapy. At the very least, every offender should be required to undergo the following tests to provide a complete picture of his personality and the roots of his unbridled aggression.
In the court-mandated evaluation phase, you should insist to first find out whether your abuser suffers from mental health disorders. These may well be the sometimes treatable roots of his abusive conduct. A qualified mental health diagnostician can determine whether someone suffers from a personality disorder only following lengthy tests and personal interviews.
The predictive power of these tests often based on literature and scales of traits constructed by scholars has been hotly disputed. Still, they are far preferable to subjective impressions of the diagnostician which are often amenable to manipulation.
By far the most authoritative and widely used instrument is the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III) a potent test for personality disorders and attendant anxiety and depression. The third edition was formulated in 1996 by Theodore Millon and Roger Davis and includes 175 items. As many abusers show narcissistic traits, it is advisable to universally administer to them the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) as well.
Many abusers have a borderline (primitive) organization of personality. It is, therefore, diagnostically helpful to subject them to the Borderline Personality Organization Scale (BPO). Designed in 1985, it sorts the responses of respondents into 30 relevant scales. It indicates the existence of identity diffusion, primitive defenses, and deficient reality testing.
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To these one may add the Personality Diagnostic Questionnaire-IV, the Coolidge Axis II Inventory, the Personality Assessment Inventory (1992), the excellent, literature-based, Dimensional assessment of Personality Pathology, and the comprehensive Schedule of Nonadaptive and Adaptive Personality and Wisconsin Personality Disorders Inventory.
Having established whether your abuser suffers from a personality impairment, it is mandatory to understand the way he functions in relationships, copes with intimacy, and responds with abuse to triggers.
The Relationship Styles Questionnaire (RSQ) (1994) contains 30 self-reported items and identifies distinct attachment styles (secure, fearful, preoccupied, and dismissing). The Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS) (1979) is a standardized scale of the frequency and intensity of conflict resolution tactics especially abusive stratagems used by members of a dyad (couple).
The Multidimensional Anger Inventory (MAI) (1986) assesses the frequency of angry responses, their duration, magnitude, mode of expression, hostile outlook, and anger-provoking triggers.
Yet, even a complete battery of tests, administered by experienced professionals sometimes fails to identify abusers and their personality disorders. Offenders are uncanny in their ability to deceive their evaluators.
This is the topic of our next article.
"Trauma Bonding" and the Psychology of Torture
Case Studies on the Psychopath and Narcissist Survivors Support Group
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