Breaking Away From Coercive Control, Abusive & Toxic Relationship Patterns Course

Photo: Nathan Dumlao

The single biggest reason cited by individuals experiencing mental health issues who approach me for assistance is abuse, toxic (severely dysfunctional) relationships at home, work or in leisure activities and coercive control.

Like shame, abuse does not make for a popular topic of discussion! In fact when I am asked what I do in life and I say I work in neurodevelopment services in autism and research the body/mind connection with yoga, meditation and spiritual cognitive behaviour therapies people are really interested. However, when I say I also research abuse, trauma and coercive control, people excuse themselves and walk off! But it’s vital to continue raising awareness because many mental health issues are the result of abuse, being in abusive or coercive & controlling relationships. Furthermore:

  • Abuse is a human rights violation.
  • Abuse can lead to trauma with devastating consequences on mental health (higher levels of depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, suicide attempts and serious mental health conditions), which negatively impact performance, wellbeing, productivity and engagement, let alone reputation.
  • Abuse is rife: individuals who are experiencing abuse come from every socio/demographic/economic and protected categories (race, gender, sexual and beliefs orientation) and hierarchical positions.
  • Coercive control is illegal in domestic spheres in the UK. It does not just happen in the domestic sphere but in the workplace, leisure activities and places of worship.

Watch our 11 (60 seconds) mini-videos introducing each topic and step below. (More in-depth videos and audios are available in the full course):

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
Nelson Mandela

Photo: Hadis Safari

What is Coercive Control?

Check our article in Psychology Today unveiling our research with co-author Dr Lisa Fontes here:

In simple terms, coercive control is as described by Professor Evan Stark “a form of subjugation of the sufferer by the perpetrator” leading to the target being ‘entrapped’ in a relationship system, in whatever environment.

So why is the topic of abuse and coercive control still taboo?

Various reasons stand out from the research:

1. ‘Surface acting’ (the public observable ‘body and face’ one keeps) for day to day survival reasons,

2. Lack of awareness or denial around what abuse is,

3. Abuse is a ‘loaded’ term, wrongly equated to overt violence, often seen as mostly physical or domestic violence. There is therefore denial with other more subtle forms of emotional and psychological abuse especially in work environments. Bullying and harassment are a form of abuse.

4. Shame and its effects on survivors can not be underestimated. Those who are being abused, either don’t see they are being abused or if they do rarely speak up for fear of reprisal. They also do not have the skills to stand up to abuse especially when hierarchy is involved.

5. Lack of expertise, adequate training and skills to address and tackle it in some environments where certain behaviours are covertly still the norm. Because of this, and the legal ramifications, it is often the symptoms which are talked about, but the behaviours and the perpetrators rarely dealt with.

In this b/vlog, we introduce the online course we have created to assist you in breaking away from abusive and coercive controlling relationship patterns.

Aim of The Course

This b/vlog is an introduction to our 7-day in-depth online course on “Breaking Away From Coercive & Controlling Toxic Relationship Patterns”, which we are rolled out in August 2019 as a week end workshop. Our intention is to guide you, if you, or someone you care about, might be in the midst of, are thinking of leaving or have left, a painful, abusive, coercive or toxic relationship.

The course provides a roadmap to help you identify signs of abuse and coercive control in their various forms, spot the abuser, understand their mind-set and how the cycle of violence operates. Along with videos and audios, this online course provides practices, exercises & simple tools to start you on your journey of healing and reclaiming your power in the comfort and safety of your own home. An in-person week end intensive workshop is also available.

You will receive:

  • A mixture of written material, audios and videos covering:
  • What Abuse and Coercive Control Are
  • Signs you’re dealing with an abuser
  • Signs someone is suffering from abuse
  • The Abuser Mind-set
  • The 6 steps Roadmap to Break The Pattern and Heal
  • Extra options include: email support and a coaching session

(Important notes: if you suspect that your life is at risk please contact the authorities immediately. If you have experienced severe abuse, it is not recommended you attempt this journey alone. Abuse can lead to trauma so take care of yourself as you might watch this series and hear/read what follows as it might be painful. Please take care of yourself and seek assistance if needed. We provide resources at the end of this article.)

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”

Dr Brené Brown

What is Abuse? What is an Abusive/Toxic or Coercive Controlling Relationship?

Did you know that abuse is “any act which violates your human rights” (NHS England)?

Signs Of Abuse

Signs You Might Be Facing an Abusive and/Coercive and Controlling Person

If what you say is often twisted, you have felt put-down, shamed, criticised, felt used and mistreated continuously over time, you might have been at the other end of abuse/dealing with an abuser and coercive control.

Internal Signs You Are Being Abused/Coerced and Controlled

These include the feelings you might be feeling in the midst of the painful relationship such as feeling disempowered, afraid of the perpetrator, you feel numb, anxious, helpless, you walk on egg shells.

The Abuser Mind-set

Researchers and experts in this field, refer to abusers as having an “abuser mind-set” and operating within a very specific set of values and attitudes making them abusers.

Abusive behaviour and violence is a choice to gain control (the only exception is if they have medical conditions affecting their brain). Those perpetuating the abuse use a range of tactics to manipulate others and exert their power.

The Cycle of Abuse

Abuse often happens in a cycle, referred to as ‘the wheel of abuse’ which can be applied to any context. We will go into more depth in the course. The cycle includes the perpetrator starting a cycle by lashing out, feeling guilt, making excuses, a period of normality so you stay, quickly over-shadowed by fantasies of things you are doing wrong with a strong need to set you up and lash out again.

This cycle makes it very hard for you to leave.

In the course we will uncover why abusers are rarely 100% abusive all of the time, what benefits they are receiving from you from the abuse and why it is therefore rare, if they are not seeking help, for abusers to not strike again, emotionally & verbally. It is possible to recover as an abuse perpetrator with a commitment to change and therapy. Without these, I have not come across change in the perpetrator.


(Please take care of yourself especially if you experienced severe abuse. You might need help from a therapist or counsellor. You might not be in a position to do this alone. Check in with yourself.)

Step 1 – Recognition & Admission

Recognising and admitting to yourself, and others, including those who are supportive and a healthcare professional, that you are being abused or are in toxic interactions is brave and vital for change to occur and lead a happy fulfilling life.

Step 2: Understanding

This is the beginning of taking our power back by taking 100% responsibility for our end, the 50%, of the relationship system. It is a continuation of the ‘recognition phase’ but this time we’re going deeper by preparing to really face what has happened to us, and why we’re in an abusive relationship.

Step 3: Why You Stay

Three theories can potentially explain this: ‘repetition compulsion’, learned helplessness and treating ourselves today the way we were treated in childhood by caregivers. If you have a pattern of being in toxic or abusive relationships the likelihood is you experienced abuse, neglect or abandonment in childhood. In this step we do practices and exercises to help us uncover the reasons why and start deep healing.

Step 4: Effective Modalities To Start Healing

In this step, we share evidence-based modalities which work over time. We provide advice on finding the right, trauma informed practitioner for you. We also provide practices and exercises to accompany you whilst you continue your exploration to get in touch with “the unlived life’ that’s within you”, that you’ve been avoiding.

Step 5 – Going Deeper Into Our Experience

In this step, we delve deeper in our practices to start reconnecting with our feelings, bodily sensations and experience. We allow ourself to start feeling “our shadow side”, our anger and pain too, in a safe and effective way, which can be practiced in the safety of your own home.

Step 6 – Reframing Our Experience and Transformation

In this step, we use all the tools we’ve learnt so far and practice challenging our erroneous beliefs about ourself, our worth and values. We also learn to set new boundaries because abuse is a human right violation therefore a boundary violation. You will be guided throughout to empower yourself again.

‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’
Eleanor Roosevelt

If you are interested in learning more about this course or you wish register your interest, or experiencing working in more depth one on one with Irena, please email us at: We aim to reply within 48 hours.

We run regular in-person weekend workshops in London, including this course. Below is a testimonial from one of our workshop participants:

“The two day workshop with Irena was illuminating. Irena created a nurturing and safe space to facilitate the exploration and healing of the false beliefs and unhelpful habits I had unconsciously been living by. The depth of work achieved in the space of the course was profound; although challenging, Irena was there to support and encourage through every step of the way. At the end of the workshop, I left with a profound sense peace within and the knowledge that I can continue this work myself having created a deep love an understanding of myself with Irena’s guidance. Thankyou for the wonderful blessing that this workshop has been”.

CB Healthcare Professional, Australia

Read what our clients have said throughout our website below:


UK: Call Women’s Aid UK at 0808 2000 247.

U.S &Canada: National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

UK: ManKind Initiative at 01823 334244.