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Malcolm S. Dec. 18, 2009

Man in handcuffs
The Colorado Domestic Violence Offender Management Board has promulgated new Standards for Treatment for court-ordered domestic violence offenders. These standards are likely to go into effect early in 2010 and represent profound and dramatic changes in the manner domestic violence offenders are counseled following convictions for offenses of domestic violence. Under the current guidelines, offenders are generally required to attend a minimum thirty-six (36) week treatment program.

The proposed guidelines will change that already intensive treatment regimen with an apparent open-ended or indefinite treatment program that’s duration is dependent upon a Multidisciplinary Treatment Team (MTT) initial assessment and continued reevaluation. The MTT is comprised of an Approved Provider, responsible criminal justice agency, and a treatment victim advocate.

Alarmingly, the new approach will give substantial power to the “approved provider” as one of the three (3) members of this MTT to make specific recommendations as to the level of treatment, the need for continued treatment and the success of treatment. As the approved provider or therapist has a significant financial interest in continued treatment of the offender, their objectivity to make decisions unimpaired by their financial interest is at best questionable.

While moving away from a “one size fits all” approach is welcomed, empowering therapist to inflate their paychecks by recommending lengthy terms of treatment is indefensible. With evaluations expected to cost around $500 and sessions averaging $30 per session, the amount of money at stake is enormous.

The new guidelines also prohibit an offender from seeking his own counseling with his spouse or significant other. In the past, someone involved in court-ordered domestic violence counseling could also seek privately to address their relationship issues in a couple’s or marriage counseling. The new guidelines flatly prohibit the couple’s or marriage counseling during the period of domestic violence treatment.

Under the new guidelines, to be successfully terminated from treatment the offender must demonstrate certain progress in treatment to established criteria or “competencies.” Significantly such criteria includes full acceptance of responsibility or accountability for their behavior. As a practitioner who has counseled hundreds of clients charged with acts of domestic violence, there is practically no case in which the accused does not dispute some aspect of the alleged victim’s story or the allegations made by an aggressive cop seeking to justify an arrest. We all know in such circumstances the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.

As such, many individuals charged with domestic violence will have to critically assess whether they can stomach “admitting” acts they didn’t commit just to avoid the label of being in denial so they can progress through their treatment.

If you have recently been charged with an act of domestic violence it is critically important that you discuss these new developments and the effect such changes will have on your case and your ability to successfully complete probation before you enter into any plea agreement waiving all your rights to defend against the charge.