The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.


Breaking out of the Drama Triangle

Using the Karpman Triangle (also known as the Drama Triangle) as my guide, I have summarized a process of “recovery” from manipulative relationship dynamics.

In case you aren’t familiar with the Karpman Triangle, it represents the dynamics of unhealthy and manipulative relationships. Each corner of the triangle depicts a role that people play in the game of a dysfunctional relationship. One corner is the victim (please help me); one corner is the rescuer (the over-responsible, controller); and the third corner is the persecutor (the villain, the bully, the superior one).

The victim usually “hooks” the other person into becoming a rescuer and if the victim role fails, the individual may switch roles into becoming the persecutor as a more overt means of accomplishing the goal. People often switch roles, playing each part, all in one dramatic interaction. You will often find these relationship dynamics in families with addictions and abuse.

(Karpman Drama Triangle; Source:


When the Church fails to help Abuse Victims

Please note that this article addresses women who are abuse victims.  While I realize that men can also be victims of abuse, my focus is on women for the sake of simplicity.  Anyone who is abused, male or female, should be cautious about the advice they receive for handling the problem.

It is so sad when a person struggling with an abusive relationship, seeks help from clergy or Christian friends, only to be told that they need to “try harder,” or “be the bigger person,” or “overlook an offense,” or “forgive,” or “turn the other cheek,” etc.  When a person, particularly a woman, seeks help from the church for domestic violence, addiction, pornography issues, or emotional neglect and abuse problems in her marriage, so often the church gives pat answers, throws a few verses at the problem, promises to pray for her, and/or sends her on her way. 

Cheat Sheet for Common Mental Illnesses Co-Occurring with Substance Abuse

I tend to work with addicts, alcoholics, abusers, and abuse victims.  Often, others are not quite sure what some of the typical symptoms are of some of the most common mental illnesses.  I decided to make my life a little easier so I typed up a little "cheat sheet" with descriptions of some of the most prevalent mental illnesses I come across, particularly when dealing with substance abusers.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  The definitions were taken from the DSM-V.