In order to effectively treat a person with an abusive personality, it is important to understand that almost everything you learned in school does not apply. A valuable basic premise to hold on to is that “people do that which they want to do because they get a reward for doing it.”
Think about an abuser. What could he possibly want from hurting another person? There are many answers to that question, these include: power, control, vindication, punishment, retaliation, etc. None of which are useful in a civilized society, let alone a healthy relationship or family.
There are two underlying approaches to abusive behaviors: defensive and offensive. The defensive abuser is reacting or responding to an external stimuli. He wants to protect himself in some way. The offensive abuser gets some sort of payoff for hurting others. What is this payoff? Most likely it is the feeling of superiority and satisfaction from having the upper hand.
When providing therapy for an abusive person, it really isn’t useful to treat him like a victim. It is not helpful to coddle his emotions or feel sorry for him. Even if your client is a defensive abuser, and is responding out of a hurt, real or imagined, he still makes the cognitive decision to injure another person as a response.