Individualizing Domestic Violence Treatment

Individualizing Domestic Violence Treatment

Domestic Violence continues to be a big problem in the country. In the United States, more than 10 million adults experience domestic violence annually. From 2016 through 2018, the number of victims in the United States increased 42%. In 2018, this violence made up 20% of all violent crime. These violent acts hurt physical, emotional, and mental well-being, as well as financial. Victims of this violence lose a total of EIGHT MILLION days of paid work each year. That is the same as 32,000 full time jobs. 

As one would expect, much of the available resources focus on aiding the victims and their families, especially the children who have been exposed, and rightfully so. However, to truly address the domestic violence problem, we must focus on treatment for those who are batterers. This is not always a popular topic, as few want to discuss the needs of these individuals given the damage that they have caused. Furthermore, treatment is not always easy to find because treating people who are batterers is not always popular, or a high priority, and this population is not one whom therapists highly desire to work with.  It is an unfortunate truth.

It is important to find ways to increase access to treatment services for the offenders. However, the challenge with this is in finding effective treatment. According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, the rating of treatment programs is new and not surprisingly, research is difficult, expensive, and currently inconclusive.

There are really two issues to be addressed to be effective:  

1) Finding the right treatment approach

2) Finding the right therapist

First, while not all, most of the offenders are men. I have done research and work in this area, and one of the difficulties in treatment that I have found, is a tendency to treat all male batterers as the same. That is, using the same routine treatment programs and treating all batterers the same way. Male batterers are not all the same and they do not respond to standardized treatment in the same way.  Treatment for these men needs to be personalized and adjusted to each person. One size does not fit all! Trying to require a person to participate in a program that will not meet his needs is not likely to be successful. Second, the therapist treating the batterer must also be familiar with the different evidence-based treatments available. The combination of the right treatment program and the right therapist is the key to increasing the effectiveness of treating male batterers.

So, while greatly increasing access to treatment is one major key to addressing the problem, we must also insist that such treatment, such as court-ordered treatment like Batterer Intervention Programs (BIP), be individually tailored enough to address the important issues; we must not just require mandatory completion because of court orders. This approach may not be the quickest or the easiest, but it is the most successful way to break the cycle.  

Author: William J. Kuzbyt, Psy.D., JD, MCAP

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