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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