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An Interview with Daniel Sonkin, Ph.D. on Domestic Violence

David Van Nuys, Ph.D.
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Daniel Sonkin, Ph.D.In this edition of the Wise Counsel Podcast, Dr. Van Nuys interviews Daniel Sonkin, Ph.D. on Domestic Violence. Dr. Sonkin describes his career working with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence and how his understanding of domestic violence has been influenced by attachment theory. He offers a definition of violent and controlling behavior, clarifies that the incidence of violence is not related to weath or poverty (it's common at all levels of society) and (except for the most extreme forms of violence) also equally perpetrated by both men and women. He describes the two strongest childhood predictors of later adult violent tendencies: viewing of caregiver violence and insecure attachment. He relates attachment status to an individual's ability to self-regulate emotions which is the basis of this association. He makes clear that help is available for both victims and perpetrators of violence and describes some of the resources available to help with this process including group and individual forms of therapy.

David Van Nuys: Welcome to Wise Counsel, a podcast interview series sponsored by CenterSite, LLC covering topics in mental health, wellness, and psychotherapy. My name is Dr. David Van Nuys. I'm a clinical psychologist and your host.

On today's how we'll be talking with Dr. Daniel Sonkin about his work in the field of domestic violence. Daniel J. Sonkin, Ph.D., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in an independent practice in Sausalito, California. Since 1981, his worked has focused on the treatment of individuals and couples facing a variety of interpersonal problems. In addition to his clinical experience, he has testified as an expert witness since 1977 in criminal cases where domestic violence is an issue. He also evaluates defendants facing the death penalty, conducting social histories with a focus on their childhood abuse and its impact on adult criminal behavior. He also testifies as an expert witness in malpractice cases and licensing actions. As one of the early specialists in the field of family violence, Dr. Sonkin has developed a widely used protocol for treating male batterers. His book, Learning to Live Without Violence: a Handbook for Men, has been published in English, Spanish and Japanese, and is utilized by treatment expert programs around the world and has sold over 300,000 copies worldwide.

Now, here's the interview.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin, welcome to Wise Counsel.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Thank you, David. It's good to be here.

David: One of my listeners, a social worker up in Lake Tahoe, brought my attention to your work. I didn't realize it until I saw your bio that, in fact, you taught at Sonoma State University for several years.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Yes.

David: And that's where I've spent my own academic career. You taught in the Counseling Department and I'm in Psychology, so unfortunately, I guess, our paths never crossed.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: They didn't. I didn't have much contact. I knew Laurel McCabe over there in psychology.

David: Oh, yes.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: But I was a part-time faculty; I was there for 10 years. I loved teaching there; I really loved it. I miss it - to this day, I still miss it.

David: Oh, wow. In 10 years our paths never crossed, but that can happen. Also I see your private practice office is located in Sausalito, which has to be one of the most beautiful and blessed spots on the planet.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: It is, and we have one of the most beautiful office spaces in Sausalito.

David: Oh, boy.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: We got a view of the water. It's very nice.

David: Oh, lucky you. That's got to be healing in itself. As clients are sitting in your office, can they look out on the bay?

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: No, actually, we used to have a couch in front of the window, and I used to look out on the bay. And then I realized it was distracting me, so we moved the couch so that it's on the wall perpendicular to that window, so neither one of us looks out to the bay, unless we have to do turn our head and go out of our way to do that.

David: Okay, well, it still sounds very delightful. And, in fact, Sausalito at first blush would seem to be an unlikely place from which to stage a practice devoted to domestic violence.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Well, Marin County - like anywhere else - you know, domestic violence knows no bounds in terms of socioeconomic backgrounds, and so it's had a very full practice over the years. Of course, my practice today is not fully domestic violence as it was 20 years ago, but there's plenty of instances of domestic violence happening in Marin County.

David: Well, that's interesting because Marin County has traditionally been one of the wealthier counties, I guess, in the US. Although, it always seemed a little paradoxical. Anyone who doesn't know Sausalito - which is on the San Francisco Bay and has a beautiful view, not only of the Bay, but you can see San Francisco in all of its beauty if there's no fog across the Bay - and paradoxically there is a housing project located right there in Sausalito, so that you have some very poor people who are living juxtaposed to some rather well-off people.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Right. Yeah, Marin City has a lot of public housing in that area, but then right up the street and up the hill are these really expensive townhomes, and then of course around the corner in Sausalito proper are these humungous mansions. But, like I said, I've been in Sausalito practicing for 30 years and the clients that I have seen who have experienced domestic violence and child abuse have really come from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

David: Well, that's fascinating. That actually anticipates one of the questions I wanted to ask you further along. Maybe I'll end up asking it anyway. Now, how did you come to work in the field of personal violence and domestic violence anyway?

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Well, I came to California in 1975 to go to graduate school, and one of the internships that I did was at Planned Parenthood. And I was very interested in the male role in family planning, and in 1975, you can imagine, they're probably weren't a lot of men who were interested in family planning.

David: Right.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: So I was a very lonely guy, so they put me to work in the pregnancy clinic, where you would give pregnancy results to women - teenagers and women - and talk with them about their options. And one day a woman came in, and she sat down and left her boyfriend in the waiting room, and as she walked in she took off her jacket, and she was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, and I saw these bruises. And I didn't really know what to say. I didn't grow up in a family where there was domestic violence. In graduate school there was no talk of domestic violence whatsoever - there was a one-hour lecture on child abuse. And so I really didn't know much about it, so I was curious about it.

So back then you'd have two sessions, one where you would give the woman the results and talk about her options; then you'd schedule another appointment to talk with her about what she would like to do. And so between appointments, I talked to my supervisor, and she even said, "Don't go there. That's not what you're there for." And, of course, growing up in a family where I was taught to question authority, I did just the opposite, so I went to the second appointment - I went in there and I asked her about it. And that was my indoctrination into the whole world of domestic violence. She told me that when she thought she was pregnant, she and her boyfriend got into a fight, and he grabbed her and shook her and left those bruises. And later on I was to discover that the rates of violence go up somewhat when a woman is pregnant, which makes sense.

David: Yeah, I didn't know that, and it does make sense.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: And so that was my entrée into this field, and then I started looking to volunteer, and one thing led to another, and it's been a really interesting journey.

David: Yes, I would say so. Now, I understand that attachment theory plays an important role in your thinking and your approach, and I assume you must be familiar with the work of David Wallin, another Bay Area psychologist who's written on attachment theory and whom I recently interviewed.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Oh, wow, I'll have to listen to that interview. Yeah, he's a very good speaker, and he's a good writer and has written some really good things on attachment theory. I started getting into attachment theory, actually, in the early 1990s when a friend and a colleague of mine, Phil Shaver, who's a psychologist at UC Davis - a wonderful, wonderful researcher and a wonderful human being, too - started sharing with me some of the articles that he was writing on adult attachment. Because, you know, attachment theory was a developmental theory that was mostly concerned about infants and child development, and it was only until the 1980s when adult attachment became an interest, too, to researchers.

And so he started getting me into it, and I started reading it, and I thought, wow, this is really good stuff, and I really liked the whole relational aspect of it. And so I started getting interested in attachment theory, and I immediately saw its application to domestic violence. And another good friend of mine, Don Dutton, who's written lots of books on domestic violence, he actually started including it in his research, and we got some good data on perpetrators and attachment theory, and how they fit in with - you know, there's a high rate of insecure attachment, as you can imagine, with perpetrators of domestic violence. And so I've been, over the years, kind of incorporating it more and more into my talks on violence.

David: Okay, as we get deeper into this, I'm going to want to come back to that topic and find out how you incorporated it into your treatment plan, but I'm interested - the attachment theory gets at an intra-psychic kind of reality, and I would think that socioeconomic and cultural factors versus psychological factors, that surely the socioeconomic and cultural factors would be strong when it comes to domestic violence. Is that not the case?

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: I think that they play a role in it. From the research to date, the most robust predictor of perpetrating domestic violence is witnessing violence as a child. If you had to put your money on anything, that's the most robust predictor of domestic violence - so, in other words, witnessing a parent be violent towards another parent. Interestingly, being abused directly yourself is not as strong a predictor as witnessing violence.

David: Interesting.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: It makes sense. I think in an intuitive sense. And then the other predictor would be insecure attachment. That's a pretty strong predictor of domestic violence as well, but again, not as strong as the witnessing. So if somebody's witnessed violence as a child, there's a very, very high probability - probably close to 70% - that they are going to have that problem as adults. Now, the cultural variables, the reason why they're not as robust is because, well, first of all, because we know that violence in the family is not limited to any one culture, so you can see it across cultures, you're going to see it across socioeconomic backgrounds, and so it's just not as robust. But that doesn't mean that it's not a variable, so if you live with racism or if you live with economic hardships or poverty, certainly that's going to cause extra stress on your life, and if you're prone to violence, it might exacerbate it. But, it's just like I said, it's not a robust predictor. And, again, the main reason it's not a robust predictor is because, yes, violence happens across all socioeconomic backgrounds and all cultural backgrounds.

David: Okay, maybe we should back up a bit and start with the basics. You've written an article that poses the question: what is violence? And at first that seems kind of obvious, but I guess there are many different kinds and degrees of violence, so let me put your own question to you. What is violence?

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Well, violence can fall into one of three broad, general categories. You have physical violence, which is anything physical from mild grabbing, slapping, pushing, to more serious acts like punching, choking, kicking, those kinds of things. And if you just look at the - well, I'll get to the rates of it after we talk about this. And then the second category is sexual violence, any kind of forced sexual activity. And the third area, which is probably the most difficult area to define - there's a lot of different definitions out there - is psychological violence, or non-physical violence. And that, again, would have a range of manifestations from more mild raising your voice, calling names, putting somebody down, to more serious types of psychological violence would be called threats, threatening somebody, threatening to kill them. So it runs the gamut. And so when we talk about domestic violence, we're really talking about a whole wide range of behaviors that include physical, sexual, and verbal, if you may.

David: You know, I have a listener in Israel, who's been calling my attention to yet another variant that I don't know whether or not it's received as much attention as it deserves, which I guess you would call financial or economic violence, where the breadwinner - usually the man - controls finances so completely that the woman is almost in a kind of a impoverished, slave-like state.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Right. I don't call that violence; I call that control - domination and control in a relationship.

David: Okay.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: And that would fall into the category - not just financial - but also not allowing the person to have friends or go to work, or telling them what to do all the time. And so, yes, there are people where control of their spouse is a really big issue, and where the victim feels really dominated and - I think you said it - almost like a prisoner in their own home.

David: Yes, now would it be proper to assume that most domestic violence is perpetrated by males?

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: No.

David: No! Tell us about that.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Most common form of domestic violence is bi-directional violence. And so I think that what happened in the '70s and '80s, there was this kind of notion that the most common form of domestic violence was men beating women, and that women were victims and men were the perpetrators. But then research was done, even back then - but it's done since - around the world, including not just the United States but in countries around the world, and they showed that if you just look at violence overall, that women actually perpetrate violence as much as men.

Now, if you look at severe violence, that's when things start getting skewed. That's when you see a lot more males perpetrating severe violence than women. But if you look at just all forms of violence, especially the mild violence like grabbing, slapping, poking, you'd be amazed. I just went to a conference back in June and I saw a researcher you was looking at this, and she was showing videos of couples discussing issues. And it was amazing how much poking and slapping and hitting that the women were doing as well.

David: Wow.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: So not to minimize the plight of victims of violence, whether male or female, that are extreme, but the problem is both men and women can have a lot of aggression, and I don't think men have a market on that. Now, if you look at other types of crime, criminal behavior, men do disproportionately perpetrate most criminal behavior, at least in the US. But in terms of domestic abuse and violence, it happens a lot. It happens both ways.

Which makes it very difficult for police officers when they go out of the domestic violence - they've been talking about this for decades. Of course, nobody's believed them. Now the research explains why they've been talking about this for decades. They go out to a call, and the woman's hitting the man, or both have bruises on them. And they don't know who to arrest and who started it and who ended it, and who did more severe damage, and it's very complicated for police officers a lot of the time.

David: Yeah, I can imagine. Now, is the underlying psychological dynamic the same for females as for males would you say?

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Yeah, I think that a lot of times, people who have this problem grew up in homes where emotions were not handled in a constructive way. You know, it's interesting: there's a wonderful psychoanalyst who's an attachment researcher, too, named Peter Fonagy, and I just read an article of his this week because I'm preparing for some workshops. I'm doing a workshop in San Diego in a couple of weeks on "From Victim to Victimizer." And I read an article that he wrote, that he talks about how aggression is normal in human beings, and the question is not whether you learned aggression, the question is whether you unlearned aggression. Infants can be very aggressive: they thrash about, they scream, they yell, they sometimes will hit their parent. And it depends on whether or not you unlearned that that plays a role in what happens later on down the road.

So I think that, when you grow up in a family that doesn't deal well with emotions, where there's also abuse going on, it's like you haven't unlearned aggression, you haven't unlearned violence, and so what happens is that most of these individuals start developing problems very early in their life. When we see them, they've been arrested, or this has been going on in a marriage for 10 or 20 years. But when you start interviewing them, you find out that there were problems when they were six years old and when they were eight years old and when they were 12 years old and when they were 14 years old. So the problems stem very, very early in life, and it's because they never really unlearned how to deal with all that aggressive energy.

David: Yeah, that's really interesting. Now, what if one of our listeners, maybe, is in a relationship and they're not certain. How can a person decide whether or not they're a victim of domestic violence?

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Well, there's a saying in the child sexual abuse field: if it feels wrong, you're right. If you feel bad about the way you're being treated, you're right. And so the best thing to do is to talk with a professional and see what options are available to you. I think that most people know when they're being treated poorly. They may try to convince themselves, oh, it's no big deal, or they may say, well, that person really didn't mean it.

In fact on Talk of the Nation today they were talking about apologies because of all the things that had been going on this week about high profile people acting badly and making apologies. And they had - I forgot her name - the Miss Manners on, talking about apologies: "And I think that the problem is that… and I'm writing a new book, and my new book is called I Promise I'll Never Do It Again." Because that's what you hear, is that somebody treats somebody badly, and then they say, look, I promise I'll never do it again. And, of course, it keeps happening over and over again.

And I think that what happens is that people start feeling bad, and they start feeling distrustful of their partner, and they start withdrawing, or they may start feeling angry. And so they know; I think most people know when they're being treated poorly. And so I would say reach out for help. There are shelters for battered women that hold groups, support groups, that you can go to. There are counselors who can see men and women if they feel like they're being treated badly by their partner. So I'd reach out for help.

David: Okay. That sounds like good advice. And at the same time, there is that dynamic that you mentioned, and people can be slow to recognize it because they're apologizing for their partner and making excuses, and the partner's promising not to do it again. So it can go on for a while.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Yeah, which it typically does.

David: Yeah, a perpetual motion see-saw effect. Now, I know we talked before about ethnicity and cross-cultural factors, and you said that those are not as strong as one might expect. But at the same time, you also wrote an article in relation to treatment - and I'm not sure how long ago this was, whether it's still fresh for you or not - but I think you wrote an article in which you discussed ethnicity and cross-cultural issues in relation to treatment. Can you say anything about that?

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Yeah, very important. I don't make any assumptions about anybody who walks in my door, whether they're of European descent or a person of color. Everybody grows up in their own little culture, and you have to be really sensitive to what kind of messages they received about marriage, relationships, about talking about problems, what solves problems. Everybody has their own kind of internal scripts and belief systems when they come into therapy, and I think that it is important, too, that treatment needs to fit the person.

And the problem in the domestic violence field is that you have these kind of cookie cutter group approaches, where everybody gets in treatment, and therefore the research on the outcomes of these groups, in other words how effective are these groups, is not very strong. And so I'm advocating - I'm doing another workshop at this conference in San Diego about treatment, where I really advocate more for what's called assessment-based treatment, where you really look at the individual and you tailor-make the intervention based on who that person is as an individual, as opposed to expecting everybody to fit the mold. So, yes, it is very important, and of course, when it comes to ethnicity, it's even more important because different ethnic groups have different ideas about therapy and how do you change and so on and so forth.

David: Yes, and if anybody wants more detail, certainly they can dig up your article. I think it's referenced on your website. Maybe you'd like to mention your website address, actually, right now.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Right. It's, and there you'll find a lot of articles, both for the general public as well as professionals, on domestic violence. There are chapters out of my book Learning to Live Without Violence, which, I'm proud to say, has sold over 300,000 copies in the last 20 years. There's chapters out of my book A Counselor's Guide to Learning to Live Without Violence, and there is my book Wounded Boys, Heroic Men. You could read the whole book online if you want. And, of course, all kinds of resources for professionals as well.

David: Yeah, that's great. It might have sounded like I was wrapping up here, but actually I'm not. Can you say something more about how attachment theory and neurobiology are incorporated in your approach to treatment, because I know that's the direction that you've moved in more and more.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Right. Well, attachment theory is a theory of affect regulation, in other words emotional regulation. And people who have secure attachments, who came from homes where their parental figures were very sensitive and attuned to their emotional needs, when they grow up, they tend to have very good what's called affect regulation strategies. They don't over emphasize their emotions, but they don't underplay their emotions. When they feel angry, they can talk about it, but they could also even decide to not talk about it if the situation calls for it. So in other words, they're flexible. They have a flexible response to emotions. And people who have secure attachment also, generally, have a benign view of themselves, they see themselves as worthy of being supported, and they generally see other people in a benign lens, too. They see that if they were to go to somebody who they know and care about, they're likely to get the support that they need.

Now, insecurely attached people don't have those same confidences. In other words, they fall into one or two categories: they tend to either totally disconnect from their feelings and play down the importance of their emotions, or when their emotions get triggered, they get very, very caught up in them, and it's hard for them to calm themselves down. And we know from the research that people with problems with domestic violence generally fall into one of those two categories: they tend to either play down their emotions and then they explode when the stress gets too much, or they get overwhelmed by their emotions and they can't control the bubbling over of their emotions, and so it could lead to violence.

And so the way I use attachment theory when I work with domestic violence is to try to understand is this a person who shuts down their emotions and then explodes? Or is this somebody who can't control their emotions? Because, depending on which affect regulation strategy they have, I'm going to either help them draw them out more with their feelings, or I'm going to help them learn to self-soothe their feelings.

And, again, these individuals don't have the confidence that relationships are safe, and they can listen to people, and that they're going to get caretaking. And that's what's wonderful about psychotherapy, is that psychotherapy is an opportunity for people to learn how to be taken care of and trust again in a relationship. And so the therapy is kind of the practical aspects of it in terms of emotion regulation, but there's also just the process aspect of it, and that is being with somebody who will really listen to you and be supportive when you're feeling bad. And I think that the effectiveness of domestic violence treatment, I would say, is that's the biggest factor. It's called the therapeutic relationship or the therapeutic alliance, where the client really feels safe with the person that they're working with. And when that's intact, all kinds of positive things are likely to occur out of the therapy.

David: Well, just hearing you talk about it made me feel like, "Oh, sign me up for that."

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Yeah, well, I would hope that some of your listeners, if they're having these problems, they will find the courage to seek out a therapist to help them work out these problems. There's a lot of shame associated with admitting that you are violent, or that you have problems with your anger, but I think a compassionate therapist is able to say, "Look, people make mistakes, and what's important is that you want to get help. That's what's important."

David: Now, I know you've also done work on the maltreatment of children. What can you tell us about that?

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: My main interest over the years has been the long-term effects - because I don't work with children per se, I work with adults - what I'm interested in is the long-term effects of child maltreatment. Part of my work has been working on death penalty cases where I evaluate the childhood histories of people facing the death penalty and try to explain how they became violent and how they committed the crimes that they did.

David: That sounds like fascinating work.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: It is very fascinating. And then, of course, with my work in domestic violence, a big part of the treatment is helping people come to terms with the experiences they had growing up, the terror they felt of seeing violence between their parents. And so it's an area that really carries over in a lot of my work; a lot of my general psychotherapy patients that I see have childhood abuse histories, and they have other kinds of problems, maybe they may have commitment problems, or depression, or anxiety as a result of that. And a part of the treatment is being able to talk about the history and be able to resolve the trauma. And resolution means being able to integrate it into your life as something that's happened, understanding how it's affected you, and making a decision to do things differently as an adult.

David: You mentioned your work on murder cases as an expert witness trying to mitigate the death penalty. Does that ever involve your actually sitting in the witness chair?

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Yes, it involves interviewing the defendant; doing what's called a social history; usually interviewing siblings, parents, friends, family members to get corroborating data; and then coming up with a timeline of their life to show how they went from victim to perpetrator and explaining that to the jury in what's called the penalty phase of the trial.

So the first phase of the trial is are they guilty or not of the crime. And then the second phase of the trial is what the punishment will be, and it's usually either life without the possibility of parole or death. And so I would come in and talk about their life and try to get some sympathy for them, even though they've committed a horrific crime. But you try to put it into context for them, that they just didn't wake up one day and decide to be an evil person. And in California, as well as other states, juries can take into account this history as a mitigating factor and choose life without the possibility of parole instead of death.

David: Are you ever called in that first phase, in the trial part where they're trying to determine guilt?

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Yeah, but I try to avoid it. I don't really see where childhood abuse really plays into whether or not they've committed a crime or not. It could play into their state of mind, but I don't like testifying in the guilt phase.

David: Yeah, I just wondered, because I've read transcripts of psychologists who've been in the witness chair, and the cross examining attorneys, they can really make a person look bad. So I was just wondering how it was for you to be in that position, if you've ever faced that kind of ordeal.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Well, believe me, they do it in the penalty phase, too. It's very intense cross examination; you have to be really willing to not take it personal, because all they're trying to do is win their case. And it's not personal; they just want their conviction and they want their death verdict. And so it's very, very intense, and I certainly don't recommend it to colleagues who don't like being in a confrontational situation. You have to be willing to think quickly and kind of spar with people who don't like you, who are trying to destroy you, basically.

David: Yes, right, right. Maybe you'll write a book about that experience at some point.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Well, I did - I am. I'm writing a novel right now, and my hero is a forensic psychologist, so that's how I'm writing about it.

David: Oh, I hope you'll think to put me on the list when it comes out, to let me know. I love reading that kind of thing and, who knows, maybe I'll interview you all over again in the context of that, and we can help promote your book a bit. I was also intrigued by an article on your website which I think is very timely, given the economic meltdown that we've been in. It's called "Angst in the Fear of Economic Meltdown: How Neural Biology and Attachment Theory Can Inform the Therapist's Response." So nothing could be more timely, inasmuch as most of us are doing our best to cope with the economic meltdown. What's your basic thesis there? Can you take us through that?

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Well, my basic thesis is that a lot of people are feeling incredible anxiety and, again, attachment theory helps to inform us - or make some predictions - of who's going to manage their anxiety best. And people who get overwhelmed by their anxiety tend to not handle the situation well. And people who avoid their anxiety or avoid thinking about it, although in the short run may seem to be doing really well, they place themselves in jeopardy of getting overwhelmed if the stresses get too much. So, again, what I do with people - and what I talk about when I give workshops on this issue - is how it's very important to understand the client's emotion regulation strategies, so that you can help either to turn things up or to turn things down for them, and that attachment theory helps us understand that.

David: Okay. Well, we've kind of come to the end here. I wonder if there are any final thoughts you'd like to leave our audience with.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Well, I think, again, if you're either a victim or a perpetrator of domestic violence, there is help out there. I think that's the most important thing that people need to understand, that there people who are specifically trained to address these issues. And what's most important is that you find somebody - you may have to go through a couple people; you have to meet maybe two or three people - but you have to find somebody who you really feel safe with and who you trust can really help you with this problem, and most importantly, is compassionate towards you and doesn't judge you or shame you or make you feel bad about what you've done, but understands the problem and is willing to help you change what needs to be changed.

David: Yes, that's terrific advice. Dr. Daniel Sonkin, you've been very generous with your time, Thanks so much for being my guest today on Wise Counsel.

Dr. Daniel Sonkin: Thank you, David, good luck with your work.

David: Well, I hope you learned as much from this interview with Dr. Daniel Sonkin as I did. As you heard us discuss during the interview, his website has links to many valuable resources. Once again, that url is If you've not listened to my earlier interview on attachment theory with Dr. David Wallin, it makes an excellent companion piece to this interview.

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About Daniel Sonkin, Ph.D.

Daniel Sonkin, Ph.D.Daniel Jay Sonkin, Ph.D. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in an independent practice in Sausalito, California. Since 1981, his work has focused on the treatment of individuals and couples facing a variety interpersonal problems. In addition to his clinical experience, he has testified as an expert witness since 1977 in criminal cases where domestic violence is an issue. He has also evaluates defendants facing the death penalty conducting social histories with a focus on their childhood abuse and its impact on adult criminal behavior. He also testifies as an expert witness in malpractice cases and licensing actions.

As one of the early specialists in the field of family violence, Dr. Sonkin has developed a widely used protocol for treating male batterers. His book, Learning to Live Without Violence: A Handbook for Men has been published in English, Spanish and Japanese and is utilized by treatment programs around the world and has sold over 300,000 copies worldwide.

Dr. Sonkin is also the author of numerous articles and books on domestic violence and child abuse. For the past nineteen years he has been integrating attachment theory and neurobiology into his clinical work with perpetrators and victims of violence, as well as his general psychotherapy patients. In addition to his clinical practice, he was an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Counseling at Sonoma State University from 1994 through 2004, a former member of the Ethics Committee (1989-1998) and is a former member of the Board of Directors (1998-2000) of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. He is the recipient of the 1989 Clark Vincent Award for Literary Contribution to the field of Marriage and Family Therapy from the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and is the 2000 recipient of the Distinguished Clinical Member Award from the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.