If violence has been, and especially if it currently still is an issue in your relationship, then Couple Counseling is not recommended. Nor is Mediation if you are going through separation or divorce. Basically the abuse itself has to be dealt with BEFORE any form of joint counseling or mediation can be effective, and in the meantime can, at best, deflect from the actual problem and fudge responsibility issues.
In the past Anger Management courses have been recommended for abusers, especially men who have been violent towards their wives or female partners. However, more and more research seems to be indicating that such courses are not effective in dealing with abusive behavior as such, as abuse is less about being able to control anger, and more about basic attitudes and control issues. In short, anger management may be part of the problem, but is usually not either the main problem or the root cause of Domestic Abuse.
Will getting help 'save' my relationship?
It may, or it may not. Often by the time the perpetrator realizes he or she has a problem, too much has already happened and the trust cannot be rebuilt. Sadly a lot of men will refer themselves to perpetrator programmes in a bid to stop their partner from leaving or even in a bid to persuade her to come back and give it another try. If you are seeking help with the sole intention or keeping or regaining a partner who has decided to leave due to your abuse, then you are probably approaching it with the wrong motives - more as a tool to get or keep what you want than as a necessary change in yourself.
Perpetrator programmes or counseling can really only help if YOU want to change. You may have to accept that due to your behavior you have lost the person you love, but at the very least you can try to ensure that you do not cause more pain and hurt to the next person you get involved in.
Other issues to bear in mind
Alcohol or Drug abuse. Frequently Domestic Violence is related to alcohol or drug abuse. It is easy to turn around and 'blame' the drink for the abuse, telling yourself that you really don't want to be nasty, but that when you are drunk, you just don't realize what you are doing. I am sorry, but this in itself is another form of denial and blame-shifting. If you know that you get violent or nasty when you drink, or that there is a risk that you will, why do you continue drinking, and putting your partner at risk? If you are serious about wanting to change your abusive tendencies, then the first thing you will do is deal with your alcohol or drug addiction, and then you will be free to deal with the underlying issues within yourself which 'allow' you to turn violent or nasty while either drunk or on drugs.
Survivors of childhood abuse. A percentage of abusers were victims of childhood abuse themselves. If you are one of them, know that it is not uncommon to internalize and in some way 'act out' the abuse you experienced in later in life on other people. There is help for you, and you would probably benefit from counseling to help you come to terms with your own experiences as a child and understand how they have affected you throughout your life and in respect of your relationships.
Often there are a lot of suppressed feelings of anger, betrayal and pain which may in part be an underlying issue in the abuse you perpetrate on others. There are loads of support groups and counselors qualified to help
Taking time out. One tactic or coping mechanism that many abusers have learned to use effectively is 'taking time out'. This basically involves recognizing when you are reaching the point at which you are likely to become abusive, and literally removing yourself. You may go for a walk, go into another room or go down the garden and do some weeding. The important thing is to remove yourself 'from the boil', take time out, and learn to calm down again.
Obviously it would be a good idea to tell your partner you intend 'taking time out' before the event occurs - or they may be left wondering what you are doing! It is not suggested that you use this coping tactic instead of counseling, but simply that many have found it helpful in avoiding abusive actions and making themselves more aware of what they are feeling and thinking.