Skip to main content

Perspectives on Treating Couples Impacted by Intimate Partner Violence

Abstract

Intimate partner violence remains a persistent social and clinical problem with far-reaching effects for families and communities. With considerable debate surrounding its treatment, two main approaches are commonly described in outcome research and clinical practice literature: gender-specific (e.g. male-only groups) and systemic approaches (e.g. conjoint treatment for couples). Proponents of the former approach cite the risks of systemic approaches that unwittingly sustain the oppression of women, while proponents of the latter highlight the importance of addressing reciprocal patterns of violence and cumulative sources of stress upon a couple. In this review, the author describes some of the issues pertinent to this debate, highlighting areas of risk and hope. The combined use of gender-specific and conjoint treatment may be beneficial for some couples under particular circumstances. The paper closes with considerations for conducting conjoint treatment.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Barnett, O. W., Lee, C. Y., & Thelen, R. E. (1997). Gender differences in attributions of selfdefense and control in interpartner aggression. Violence Against Women, 3, 462–481.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Belknap, J. (2001). The invisible woman: Gender, crime, and justice (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co..

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bograd, M. (1984). Family systems approaches to wife battering: A feminist critique. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 54(4), 558–568.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Bograd, M. (1992). Values in conflict: Challenges to family therapists’ thinking. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 18(3), 245–256.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bograd, M., & Mederos, F. (1999). Battering and couples therapy: Universal screening and selection of treatment modality. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 25(3), 291–312.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Bradley, R. P. C., & Gottman, J. M. (2012). Reducing situational violence in low-income couples by fostering healthy relationships. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 38(s1), 187–198.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bradley, R. P. C., Drummey, K., Gottman, J. M., & Gottman, J. S. (2014). Treating couples who mutually exhibit violence or aggression: Reducing behaviors that show a susceptibility for violence. Journal of Family Violence, 29, 549–558.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Davis, L. V., & Hagen, J. (1992). The problem of wife abuse: The interrelationship of social policy and social work practice. Social Work, 37, 15–20.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Dobash, R. E., & Dobash, R. P. (1979). Violence against wives. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  10. George, J., & Stith, S. M. (2014). An updated feminist view of intimate partner violence. Family Process, 53, 179–193.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Gurman, A. S., & Burton, M. (2014). Individual therapy for couple problems: Perspectives and pitfalls. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 40(4), 470–483.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Harris, G. E. (2006). Conjoint therapy and domestic violence: Treating the individuals and the relationship. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 19(4), 373–379.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Hattendorf, J., & Tollerud, T. R. (1997). Domestic violence: Counseling strategies that minimize the impact of secondary victimization. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 33(1), 14–23.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Holtzworth-Munroe, A. (2001). Standards for batterer treatment programs: How can research inform our decisions? Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 5(2), 165–180.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. LaTaillade, J. J., Epstein, N. B., & Werlinich, C. A. (2006). Conjoint treatment of intimate partner violence: A cognitive behavioral approach. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 20(4), 393–410.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Lechtenberg, M., Stith, S., Horst, K., Mendez, M., Minner, J., Dominguez, M., & McCollum, E. (2015). Gender differences in experiences with couples treatment for IPV. Contemporary Family Therapy, 37, 89–100.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Maiuro, R. D., & Eberle, J. A. (2008). State standards for domestic violence perpetrator treatment: Current status, trends, and recommendations. Violence and Victims, 23(2), 133–155.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. McCollum, E. E., & Stith, S. M. (2007). Conjoint couple’s treatment for intimate partner violence: Controversy and promise. Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, 6(2), 71–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. McCollum, E. E., & Stith, S. M. (2008). Couples treatment for interpersonal violence: A review of outcome research literature and current clinical practices. Violence and Victims, 23(2), 187–201.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. McPhail, B. A., Busch, N. B., Kulkarni, S., & Rice, G. (2007). An integrative feminist model: The evolving feminist perspective on intimate partner violence. Violence Against Women, 13(8), 817–841.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. O’Leary, K. D. (2001). Conjoint therapy for partners who engage in physically aggressive behaviour: Rationale and research. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 5(2), 145–164.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Rosen, K. H., Matheson, J. L., Stith, S. M., McCollum, E. E., & Locke, L. D. (2003). Negotiated time-out: A de-escalation tool for couples. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 29(3), 291–298.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. Stith, S. M., McCollum, E. E., Amanor-Boadu, Y., & Smith, D. (2012). Systemic perspectives of intimate partner violence treatment. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 38(1), 220–240.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Sylaska, K. M., & Edwards, K. M. (2014). Disclosure of intimate partner violence to informal social support network members: A review of the literature. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 15(1), 3–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Todahl, J., Linville, D., Shamblin, A. F. T., & Ball, D. (2012). Client narratives about experiences with a multicouple treatment program for intimate partner violence. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 38(s1), 150–167.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Vall, B., Seikkula, J., Laitila, A., Holma, J., & Botella, L. (2014). Increasing responsibility, safety, and trust through a dialogical approach: A case study in couple therapy for psychological abusive behavior. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 25(4), 275–299.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Yodanis, C. L. (2004). Gender inequality, violence against women, and fear: A crossnational test of the feminist theory of violence against women. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19, 655–675.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The author acknowledges the anonymous reviewers and Gayatri for their help with improving the paper. Thanks must also go to Dally.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Nandini Maharaj.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The author declares no financial conflicts of interest.

Human and Animal Rights

The paper does not involve a study with animal or human patients.

Informed Consent

There are no informed consent notifications to state.

Additional information

Nandini Maharaj, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Maharaj, N. Perspectives on Treating Couples Impacted by Intimate Partner Violence. J Fam Viol 32, 431–437 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-016-9810-6

Download citation

Keywords

  • Adult
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Family/domestic violence
  • Intervention
  • Treatment
  • Clinical issues
  • Trauma