Reference Work Entry

Handbook of Clinical Psychology Competencies

pp 1039-1062

Partner Abuse

  • K. Daniel O’LearyAffiliated withStony Brook University
  • , Heidi Lary KarAffiliated withStony Brook University


Partner violence was almost unknown in the 1960s, but the field of intimate partner violence (IPV) has become widely known and there are now a number of specialty journals that cover this topic. The early stages of the field involved major surveys about the prevalence of IPV and many studies on correlates and predictors of IPV. It is now known that IPV occurs in about 10% of the general populations of men and women and that there is a clear need to assess for IPV in clinical populations. Fortunately, there are measures of IPV, Fear of Partner, and Injury, and these assessment instruments can be used by any clinician. Treatment of IPV for men mandated by courts to intervention programs has a small but significant effect over and above monitoring by the courts, but there is a strong need for treatment of differing levels of aggression. It is quite possible that treatments could be successful for men and women who engage in infrequent physical aggressive to their partners and who do not make them fearful or injure them.

Clinicians need to know the ethics of reporting of partner abuse, how to develop safety plans with a client, availability of local shelters, how and when to treat substance abuse, and when to treat marital problems. There is no one size fits all treatment, and some low level IPV can be treated conjointly whereas severe IPV may require both group and/or individual treatment for the perpetrator. Careful assessment and case conceptualization regarding risk factors for the IPV are needed to determine the best treatment options.