Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Group Interventions for Men Who Batter: A Summary of Program Descriptions and Research

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Group Interventions for Men Who Batter: A Summary of Program Descriptions and Research

Article excerpt

This article provides a summary of the latest research on men's group interventions for men who batter their intimate partners. The major components of current programs are described, along with studies on treatment effectiveness. Evidence for the effectiveness of treatment combined with a coordinated community response is also presented. Several related topics are covered, in particular methods for enhancing treatment motivation and culturally competent practice.

Keywords: domestic violence; interventions; batterer programs; outcome research

This article summarizes recent research on all-male group interventions for men who batter, including the major components of programs, what is known about treatment effectiveness, and methods for enhancing treatment motivation and culturally competent practice. Programs reviewed will be those commonly called "social service," "treatment," or "psychoeducational," as opposed to purely criminal justice interventions.

Men's groups are the most common format, followed by individual counseling (Pirog-Good & Stets-Kealey, 1985). In a recent national survey, 82% of the programs reported that most batterers (>95%) participate in groups. Five percent of the programs offer individual treatment (>50%); and 13% offer couples treatment to men and their partners, with less than 20% of the men in these programs offered couples counseling (Price & Rosenbaum, 2007). Group leaders generally believe that the group format has several advantages, including decreasing a sense of isolation, the opportunity for more realistic role plays, and the opportunity for feedback and confrontation from one's peers. Concerns have been raised recently about negative outcomes in groups, as sometimes occurs with juvenile offenders. Group approaches can also make it difficult to individualize treatments, and group dynamics can be difficult to handle with resistant clients (Murphy & Eckhardt, 2005).

Domestic abuser programs have historically been operated by profeminist men's groups, traditional social service agencies, and battered women's shelters (Bennett & Williams, 2001; Gondolf, 2002; Mederos, 2002). Some programs are affiliated with probation departments and courts or located in prisons and jails. There are now over 2,500 programs in the United States (Price & Rosenbaum, 2007). A recent survey revealed that the majority (63%) are freestanding and not part of a "parent" organization, with 43% being private nonprofit, 48% private for profit, and the remainder governmental (Dalton, 2007). About 15% were part of a shelter program. Little evidence is available about the effect of treatment setting on the approach used (Feazell, Myers, & Deschner, 1984). Surprisingly, one study found that shelter-run programs focused less on patriarchal norms than other programs (Eddy & Myers, 1984). In a recent international survey of 74 programs in 38 countries, parent agencies were most likely victim advocacy or psychological counseling programs, with only 5% being in criminal justice settings and 4% in men's programs (Rothman, Butchart, & Cerda, 2003).

Programs tend to integrate several methods in two main phases: (a) expanding definitions of abuse and increasing responsibility; and (b) teaching alternative reactions and behaviors (Gondolf, 1997). Programs differ in the emphasis placed on these two dimensions (Rosenbaum & Leisring, 2001). A few core elements are found in most programs. A 1985 national survey revealed that more than 80% of the programs attempted to increase offender self-esteem and change sex-role attitudes (Pirog-Good & Stets-Kealey, 1985). Gondolf (1990) surveyed 15 model programs and 15 other programs. Model programs had existed for at least 5 years and were highly visible. Programs were classified as therapeutic (treatment of emotional pain and psychological problems), psychoeducational (instruction in cognitive and social skills), and didactic/confrontational (consciousness-raising about the consequences of and responsibility for abuse). …

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