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The Mask of Happiness

Unmasking Coercive Control in Intimate Relationships


Journal of Psychiatric Practice®: January 2018 - Volume 24 - Issue 1 - p 48–50
doi: 10.1097/PRA.0000000000000281

While most mental health professionals know how to recognize the obvious and most concerning presentations of possible intimate partner violence, there are numerous ways in which a partner may be controlled, bullied, isolated, exploited, and manipulated that do not present such observable signs. The literature pertaining to domestic abuse has increasingly moved away from injury as a necessary marker and instead has begun to highlight the importance of more covert but similarly deleterious processes within certain intimate relationships. It is crucial that mental health professionals inform themselves about other ways individuals are exploited with or without physical injury to ensure resources are made available to those who may be being harmed through manipulation, threats, fear, and isolation. This article defines and exemplifies the dynamic of coercive control, a more insidious and difficult to identify process of domination and exploitation that victims have a hard time labeling on their own. Further reading and resources are also provided.

SCHNEIDER: Dr Schneider is a forensic psychologist in private practice in Denver, CO. She serves as an expert witness for the United States Military; a Clinic Associate at the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology; and the chair of the Forensic Task Force for the Colorado Psychological Association, Denver, CO

The author declares no conflicts of interest.

Please send correspondence to: Nicole Schneider, PhD, Colorado Clinical and Forensic Psychology, P.C. 6021 S. Syracuse Way #201, Greenwood Village, CO 80111 (e-mail:

Copyright © 2018 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.