One common treatment modality is an Abuser Intervention Program (sometimes called a Batterer Intervention Program). Abuser Intervention Programs are group treatment modalities for offenders who, in most cases, are referred by the courts as an alternative to incarceration.
These are the features of a model Abuser Intervention Program:
- Evidence-based: The Abuser Intervention Program should be based on the best empirical research findings.
- Group Size: The ideal group size is 6-8, and not more than 12 persons.
- Group Membership: The Abuser Intervention Program may be open to both men and women, or may be restricted to members of one gender.
- Assessment: The length, nature, and modality of treatment must be based on a careful assessment. The assessment should be conducted using structured assessment instruments, as well as motivational interviewing techniques by which information is elicited from the client in a supportive manner that leads the client to draw his/her own conclusions about the need for treatment.
- Duration: For an offender convicted of a physical assault or serious verbal threat, the length of the course should be at least 26 weeks. First-time, low-level offenders require a shorter course of treatment.
- Key Skills: The important skills that most offenders need to learn are anger management, conflict resolution, communication, and empathy skills.
- Group Process: The Abuser Intervention Program relies on a client-centered approach favoring a strong facilitator-client alliance. The group relies on a flexible format in which clients can learn specific skills, explore their issues, and obtain support from fellow group members. Homework is assigned as appropriate.
- Supplemental Treatment: The group format should be supplemented with individual, couples, and family counseling, as appropriate.
- Facilitator Qualifications: The facilitator must have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work, or related field. The facilitator needs to have completed a training program in family violence that includes both a 60-hour didactic component and clinical experience facilitating a group for at least 52 weeks. A co-facilitator should be present for all sessions, or the facilitation done in conjunction with weekly consultation and supervision. The training should be conducted by a licensed mental health professional who is certified as an abuser intervention provider, as well as an expert in family violence.
- Coordinated Community Response: The group facilitator coordinates efforts with other domestic violence related groups in the community. Research shows close monitoring by the courts or probation officer can reduce recidivism.
- Program Evaluation: Program evaluation should assess both process and outcome measures. Outcome evaluation should include indicators of behavior change, such as the number of incidents of physical aggression during the previous week or month. The evaluation should be accomplished upon program conclusion and at a reasonable time period (e.g., one month) after program conclusion.
(1) Bowen EL. Domestic Violence Treatment for Abusive Women: A Treatment Manual. New York: Routledge. 2008.
(2) Hamel J. The treatment of partner violence: Towards evidence-based practice. Forensic Therapist Vol. 9, No. 1, 2010.
(3) Hamel J, Nicholls T. Family Interventions in Domestic Violence: A Handbook of Gender-Inclusive Theory and Treatment. New York: Springer. 2007.
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