Abuse Cycle Wheel

Help your patient identify potential abuse patterns in their relationship with the abuse cycle wheel. Click here for a free copy of the resource.

By Patricia Buenaventura on May 15, 2024.

Fact Checked by RJ Gumban.

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What is an Abuse Cycle Wheel?

The , by psychologist Lenore E. Walker, is a resource used by mental health practitioners to know and be familiar with one of the common patterns of abusive behaviors in relationships. Specifically, it gives practitioners an idea of the four stages of abuse: tension, incident, reconciliation, and calm. By knowing these stages, practitioners can better understand why abuse victims find it hard to stop or remove themselves from the cycle.

Here’s a quick elaboration of the four stages in an abuse cycle wheel.

Stage One. Tensions Build

During this stage, an abuser feels an increase in tension that can be fueled by external stressors such as stress, fatigue, family problems, etc. Victims may feel like they must calm the abuser despite the possible communication breakdown during this time.

Stage Two. Incident

Abuse, whether physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, or psychological, happens during this stage to release the abuser’s tension, help them regain power, or establish control.

Stage Three. Reconciliation

After the abusive behavior, the abuser can apologize, deny the abuse, or give excuses. In some instances, the abuser may also use kindness, gifts or perform loving gestures toward the victim.

Stage Four. Calm

Also known as the “honeymoon phase,” during this stage, it’s as if the abuse between the victim and abuser didn’t happen.

After four stages, according to the creator of the cycle, it will rinse and repeat. This means the cycle will happen repeatedly, possibly even unpredictably, until the abusive behavior ceases.

Printable Abuse Cycle Wheel

Download this Abuse Cycle Wheel to help educate clients.

How does it work?

Access and Download the Template

To access and download our printable abuse cycle wheel template, you can either:

  • Click the “Use Template” or “Download Template” button above
  • Search the “Abuse Cycle Wheel” in Carepatron’s template library on our website or app

Use the Resource

Since the abuse cycle wheel and this template’s purpose are primarily for reference, you can use the resource for whatever you need. If you need ideas about when and how to use this template, refer to the “When would you use this Template?” section below. 

Take Down Notes and Securely Store (Optional)

Want to take notes on your patient’s stories, observations, and findings? Use the provided space at the bottom of the template. 

Abuse Cycle Wheels Example (sample)

Here’s our example of an abuse cycle wheels PDF template for medical practitioners doubling as a document for the practitioner’s notes on a fictional client. You may use this example for educational purposes or as a reference. 

Grab a copy of our sample template for offline use by clicking the “Download Example” button above or the sample below. 

Download this Abuse Cycle Wheel Example:

Abuse Cycle Wheels Example (sample)

When would you use this Template?

To review

Suppose you’re a mental health professional working with patients who may be victims of domestic abuse. You can use this resource as one of the many references for the patterns of abuse and identify if this specific pattern applies to the patient’s situation. 

To explain

The abuse cycle wheel can also be used to explain to the patient or make them aware of what they are experiencing or have experienced. 

However, note that it’s essential to let the patient know that the pattern may change and that having this knowledge doesn’t mean it’s their fault or their responsibility to predict the abuser's actions.

To take down notes

You can make the most of the template by using it as a document to write down any notes, findings, or observations during your session with your patient. You may also use it as a main resource where you and fellow practitioners can attach test results and prescriptions for future reference. 



Because a single entity created the abuse cycle wheel, it’s no doubt standardized, making it easy for mental health practitioners and other practitioners who will use the resource without further instructions needed. If they’ve studied or encountered it before, they're familiar with the content if one mentions it. 

Encourages patient-doctor communication

Sometimes a patient may be hesitant to share their experience, especially if they’re unaware it’s happening or has happened. One way to prompt a sharing experience, answer, or conversation is by showing them the abuse cycle wheel and asking questions about the written behavior. 

It’s important to note here, however, that the patient must consent and be comfortable with sharing their experience. 

Insight into your patient’s situation

Even though the abuse cycle wheel is only one of the many patterns of abuse, it’s still a helpful resource, especially if the patient’s abuser shows patterns of behavior similar to the ones on the wheel. 

Early recognition

One of the most important purposes of the free abuse cycle wheel template is that it can be a resource or reference that can help practitioners and patients recognize abusive behavior. Early recognition may just be exactly what the patient needs to seek help or leave their relationship. 

Why use Carepatron as your Abuse Cycle Wheel app?

It’s because the Carepatron app is used by mental health professionals like therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists to access and download abuse cycle wheel templates for themselves and their clients. 

And you can be one of the many medical professionals who can benefit from our templates of helpful resources for patients and more!

With the Carepatron software, you can do more than grab a copy of the abuse cycle wheel template like:

  • Fill out the template and securely store it on our HIPAA-compliant EHR
  • Have the client who may be a victim or survivor schedule appointments independently in case of concerns
  • Teleconsult with your client in case of an emergency using our integrated video call solutions
  • Set up reminders and an automated payment system for ease of payment for family and friends who are supporting the client 

This is just a glimpse of the many other free features and resources that can improve your practice's caliber, no matter your specialty. So, what are you waiting for? Sign up on Carepatron today!

Electronic Health Records Software
Who uses the Abuse Cycle Wheel?
Who uses the Abuse Cycle Wheel?

Commonly asked questions

Who uses the Abuse Cycle Wheel?

Generally, mental health practitioners are the ones who use the abuse cycle wheel during their therapy sessions. 

When do you use the Abuse Cycle Wheel?

Practitioners who provide therapy for victims and survivors of abuse may use the abuse cycle wheel during their sessions or when they suspect their patient is on the receiving end of abusive behavior. 

How is the Abuse Cycle Wheel used?

The abuse cycle wheel template we created can be used as a reference, an educational resource, or a document on which one can write notes on. 

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