January 6, 2016 BlogEfficacy of Trauma-Informed Group Therapy for Intimate Partner Violence

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Adam D. LaMotte and Casey T. Taft, PhD

University of Maryland, Baltimore County (Mr LaMotte) and National Center for PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare System, and Boston University School of Medicine, Massachusetts (Dr Taft)


Intimate partner violence (IPV) among military veterans and service members is a serious public health problem. Veterans with reported military trauma and elevated symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder are at particularly increased risk for committing IPV. While more work in this area is needed, current theory and research suggest that the experience of trauma can alter the ways that people view themselves, others, and the world, which can then influence how they interact with others. For example, after a traumatic experience, one may develop a strong sense of mistrust in others. This mistrust may lead him or her to interpret others’ actions as being hostile or malicious, which can then escalate conflict and lead to violence.

Given the large number of US veterans returning from deployments, there is a pressing need for effective IPV intervention among this population. To try to meet this need, Taft and colleagues have developed the Strength at Home Men’s Program (SAH-M), which is a cognitive-behavioral, trauma-informed group therapy program designed to reduce and end IPV.

A recent randomized controlled clinical trial investigated the efficacy of SAH-M among a sample of 135 US veterans and service members. This study randomized participants to receive either SAH-M or enhanced treatment as usual (ETAU), in which participants were given clinical referrals for mental health and IPV services, as well as ongoing IPV assessment. A notable strength of the study is that it successfully incorporated collateral reports of IPV from veterans’ partners in the majority (82.2%) of cases.

This study found that SAH-M participants, relative to ETAU participants, showed greater reductions in physical and psychological IPV from pretreatment to posttreatment. When different forms of IPV were disaggregated, SAH-M appeared particularly effective at reducing behaviors that involve controlling one’s partner through monitoring and isolation.

Findings of this study provide support for the SAH-M program and are particularly exciting given that no prior randomized controlled trial has demonstrated the efficacy of an IPV intervention program among military or veteran populations. This study’s significant effects are also notable in the context of the larger literature on IPV intervention programs, in which intervention effects tend to be modest and not statistically significant, and rigorous research designs are scarce.

Some of the program’s success in reducing IPV may be due to its emphasis on trauma and its role in problematic social information processing (eg, hostile attributions of others’ behaviors). While all participants reported at least 1 trauma, not all of the distressing events reported were related to military service. Studies have found high rates of trauma exposure among samples of civilian men enrolled in IPV interventions, and certain forms of trauma (eg, witnessing interparental abuse in childhood) have long been discussed in the IPV literature. Thus, an important step for future research will be to examine whether the effects of this trauma-informed IPV intervention program generalize to civilian samples.

Financial disclosure:Mr LaMotte and Dr Taft had no relevant personal financial relationships to report.​

Category: PTSD , Veteran
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