May is Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month

Sydney-based clinical psychologist, Dr Yuliya Richard, says the online courses she has developed to better manage impulsive behaviours can be a first step to help people to change behaviours that contribute to domestic and family violence.  

She said difficulty to control impulsivity underlies issues such as anger outbursts, rage, or unhealthy drinking, which contribute to relationship problems and family violence. 

Dr Richard co-founded the Impulsivity program to help people gain control over impulsive behaviour especially where they experience urges, cravings and temptations or difficult emotions. Popular courses include “anger and rage”, “binge drinking”, “self-control” and “relationship issues”.

She said research consistently shows that more people engage in impulsive aggression in their intimate relationship where they just snap, rather than act in premeditated aggression.

People who struggle with impulsivity tend to behave impulsively when experiencing positive or negative emotions and they might be seeking novel and interesting sensations and stimuli, have difficulty tolerating frustration and boredom, or have trouble planning well.  They tend to focus on immediate small rewards over later larger ones, they tend to react rather than think through their decisions and lack consideration for the consequences of their behaviour. They feel urge to lash out and immediately might feel a relief – even though, long term, such behaviour damages their relationship. 

“A first step is to develop awareness of impulsivity and ways to manage it,” Dr Richard said.

“For a long lasting, healthy relationship, issues need to be resolved, things need to be repaired, and control over the behaviour needs to be regained,” she said.  

“It is important for the people to think about the cost of their behaviour – to themselves, their partner, and the relationship. Work out the thoughts, feelings, and actions that feed impulsive urges and the different ways to think, cope and react.”

She said there is a large body of evidence documenting a link between alcohol consumption and violence involving intimate partners and close family members. Research suggests that since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders, there has been a marked increase in domestic violence.

Studies include those by the US based National Bureau of Economic Research and one by Dr Kim Usher AM from the University of New England in NSW who found there was Increased vulnerability to family violence and reduced options for support during COVID-19.” 

According to the World Health Organisation, the number of fatal victims in interpersonal conflict in 2002 was almost twice the number of war victims. More recent reports showed that at least 700,000 people die each year as victims of aggressive assault.

A person who behaves aggressively, can’t get better until they take responsibility for their expression of anger. They need to believe that change is necessary, possible and worth it.” 

“If we never try to manage impulsivity, it can turn into a bad habit that is hard to change without help and tools. When we are impulsive, we are more likely to feel ashamed and out of control, and less likely to seek help.”

Dr Richard said the online courses help people who do not wish to or have difficulty accessing professional help. Her courses are cost effective and can be done privately and at people’s own pace.

“Waiting lists to see public and private psychologists are long, particularly in regional and rural areas.”  

Dr Richard’s courses are based on a three-year research program she completed at the University of Newcastle