Focusing on Stages of Change Decreases Violent Behavior in Batterers

Batterers, individuals who commit physical abuse, may benefit from treatment that focuses on the specific stages of change. According to a new study led by Deborah A. Levesque of Pro-Change Behavior Systems, Inc., in West Kingston, Rhode Island, identifying the motivating factors behind those stages and addressing the precise stage a batterer is in at time of treatment is critical to the success of batterer intervention programs. The transtheoretical model of behavior change (TTM) suggests that change is a process and occurs gradually in stages that include considering the change, preparing to change, taking action, and maintaining new behaviors. TTM theorizes that individuals will respond best when they are offered treatment that is tailored to meet the issues that arise at the precise stage of change that they are experiencing. Previous research has shown that stage-focused treatments have had significant positive results for individuals struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges. To determine if this focused approach is effective for batterers, both short-term and long-term, Levesque enlisted 492 men who were court ordered for domestic violence treatment and enrolled them in a stage-based intervention program called Journey to Change.

The program was delivered via the computer and included three sessions of behavior change treatment along with a printed guide. Levesque found that after completion, the men in Journey to Change were twice as likely to seek help outside of the intervention, through private counseling, spiritual or religious guidance, or by speaking to their doctors, than the men enrolled in usual care (UC). Because these men chose willingly to seek outside help, they were more likely to see significant behavior changes than the men in the UC group. For instance, the Journey to Change men had fewer police altercations, less physical violence, higher condom use rates, and less emotional and psychological aggression 1 year after the intervention than the UC men. Additionally, the Journey to Change group also saw increases in self-help seeking behaviors for other issues, including drug or alcohol misuse and other psychological problems. Levesque believes that the findings of this study emphasize the importance of exploring stage-focused interventions further. She added, “Identifying and working toward multiple behavioral goals can increase the cost-effectiveness and impact of batterer treatment.”

Levesque, D. A., Ciavatta, M. M., Castle, P. H., Prochaska, J. M., & Prochaska, J. O. (2012). Evaluation of a stage-based, computer-tailored adjunct to usual care for domestic violence offenders. Psychology of Violence. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027501

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  • Ricky


    March 22nd, 2012 at 4:09 AM

    Any time that you are able to break one larger goal down into smaller steps and ore accomplishable steps, that I think that you are going to see a higher rate of success among those who are willing to do the necessary work and who ultimately want to succeed. That does not mean that there will not be setbacks, because of course with anything that is making such a huge change in life there are boun to be those little stumbles. But I also know that these guys are human too, no matter what they have done, and that they need these steps in increments in order to be a success.

  • elliott


    March 22nd, 2012 at 12:46 PM

    small steps are always the ones that feel the most attainable, and that which can give you the earliest sense that this could be something that you can overcome!

    the only concern that i have about this is that one would get too confident, think that they have gotten past something before the final goal is reached.

    just don’t give up on the work until you actually cross the finish line, because it is too easy to relapse when you give up on the work before it is all actually completed.

  • E Donald

    E Donald

    March 23rd, 2012 at 6:03 AM

    Going through stages sounds like a good thing, but wouldn’t the same be achieved if the participants are encouraged to talk about and reveal about what is in their minds with regards to the treatment and how they are connecting with it?After all it is about aiding them to move ahead while getting rid of the problems.

  • ron c

    ron c

    March 24th, 2012 at 5:10 AM

    In my head I know that the way to achieve something is to break it down into smaller and more manageable parts. That is true with anything. But we would not be human if we did not still want things to happen faster and to be able to leapfrog over all of the hard work to get to the end goal. Life just ain’t like that though.

  • Sallie


    March 24th, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    maybe small rewards along the way would be an incentive?

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