(Note: In all of my posts I use "he" for abuser and "she" for victim for simplicity and because, in the majority of cases, the abuser is male. But it can be the opposite with a female abuser. Dynamics of abuse can also happen in same sex relationships.)
Domestic Abuse Misconception #3: Abuse is a relationship problem that can be fixed with couples counseling. This idea is incredibly prevalent, the thought being that they just need to learn how to own their own junk and take responsibility for their own crap and learn to get along.
Nope! Nope! Nope!
Couples counseling is NEVER recommended where abuse is present. Why? Because abuse is not a relationship problem. It is an abuse problem. There is a power imbalance within the relationship that the abuser is dead set on maintaining at all costs. The abuser doesn't abuse because the victim is irritating or dysfunctional in some way (we all are). The abuser abuses because he wants power and control above all else and he feels jolly well entitled to it.
Most victims seeking help have often already tried couples counseling, often with disastrous results. Just as the abuser seeks to maintain control in the home and in the relationship, he seeks to maintain control in the counseling as well, often even snowing the counselor. (Not all counselors are well trained in the dynamics of domestic abuse, a post for another day.) And if the victim speaks up and is honest with the counselor in front of the abuser, she will pay for it.
Victims need safe, one-on-one counseling with a counselor who is well versed in abuse. Abusers need a very different kind of program and high accountability. But they never, ever should be seen together to try to get them to work things out. It won't work and will end up doing more damage.
This article explains it well.