Strength Based Batterer Intervention: A New Paradigm in Ending Family Violence

The field of family violence has always had people who hold strong positions in relation to the lens (frame) that they bring to understanding the issue. As a consequence this also frames intervention. Despite these differences all of us working in the area have the same fundamental purpose in mind: to protect people by stopping family violence. We are however faced with the key question of effectiveness of current interventions which from meta-analysis is not that great. This is what makes this book a timely contribution to a field that is searching for evidenced-based credible ideas that can get results.

This book invites us to explore a significant paradigm shift from thinking about people who perpetrate violence from hopeless to hopeful. Rather than focussing upon significant deficits, incorporating strengths, competencies, attributes, and resources into the treatment regimen. This is in line with contemporary thinking in related fields of practice (criminal justice, alcohol and other drug, mental health, child protection) where many of these transitions have been undertaken.

As the authors note, the idea of using strengths is not new. Over 50 years ago Carl Rogers (1951) addressed the utility of strengths as essential to human growth and change. It is also important to say that focusing on strengths does not discount the need for family violence offenders to be responsible for their behaviours. People who have harmed their partners should be held accountable for the damage they have done. However, they also need help to change.

This book provides a number of key ideas that provide us with a number of useful frames to explore what intervention might look like. The first section explores the foundation for changing the paradigm by firstly exploring the need for doing something different (this is a key premise of strength-based work – if something is not working do something different). The book then provides a review of the overarching components of strengths-based batterer intervention.

What I liked was the next section which explores in depth six key theoretical models that can be utilised when working with family violence perpetrators. These include: solution-focused, motivational interviewing, narrative therapy, and strengths focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), broaden-and-build and the Good Lives Model. Although no agencies are currently utilizing these two promising approaches with family violence populations, they have proven effective with other populations traditionally considered “challenging,” such as sexual offenders, serious violent offenders, and prison populations.
The third and final part of this text provides practical applications and a look toward the future. Grounded in the idea that reducing negative behaviours is dependent on building the positive side of the person’s potential, the remaining chapters explore assessment and treatment from a strengths-based perspective. It also includes 20 examples of practical “tools” that can be used in the family violence treatment setting. The included instruments, exercises, questions, and assessment strategies build on strengths and competencies, with an emphasis on promoting safety.

This book richly describes practice that in my view provides the field with a way forward. This is not to discount what has gone before – we have much to be proud of. I know that in my conversations with many family violence practitioners that these approaches are providing a renewed sense of excitement to the work, as well as a renewed sense of purposeful engagement in promoting safety for women and children

Published on Thursday, April 8th, 2010, under Family violence, What Ken thinks

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