Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Teresa A. Treat
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious public health concern. Existing interventions for male IPV offenders (i.e., Duluth Model with CBT principles) have shown small-to-negligible effects in reducing future perpetration of violence and have high dropout rates. Offenders who fail to complete treatment, or are deemed to be at “high risk”, are sent to jail. Efficacious and acceptable interventions for incarcerated IPV offenders are needed. The objective of this dissertation study was to test the feasibility of implementing an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) skills group with incarcerated IPV offers. The ultimate goal of ACT is to help individuals make behavioral choices in the service of their values, despite the presence of unwanted internal experiences, through the use of acceptance and mindfulness skills. The specific aims of the study were: 1) to examine post-treatment effects in the targeted ACT skills (i.e., present-moment awareness, acceptance, defusion, experiential avoidance), internalizing symptoms, and externalizing behaviors; and to test whether treatment effects were moderated by IPV-related criminal history severity (IPV-CHS); 2) to explore participants’ perceptions of the group; and 3) to examine whether pre-treatment IPV-CHS predicted worse ACT skills and greater symptom severity at pre-treatment.
A sample of 33 court-mandated IPV offenders who participated in the 1 month ACT skills group (12 sessions, delivered 3 times per week) and who completed self-report questionnaires at pre and post treatment was used to evaluate the first two aims. The sample used to evaluate aim three consisted of 58 participants who had completed either the ACT skills group or another treatment offered at the jail at the time (treatment-as-usual) and for whom pre-treatment data were available. Quantitative results revealed that ACT did not produce significant pre to post changes in any of the outcome measures (i.e., ACT skills, internalizing symptoms, and externalizing behaviors), that IPV-CHS did not reliably moderate treatment effects, and that IPV-CHS did not predict worse ACT skills or greater symptom severity at pre-treatment. Qualitative results, however, revealed that participants viewed the ACT treatment favorably, found the material useful, and felt accepted and understood by the facilitators. The present study provides evidence for the feasibility of administering a standardized ACT-based protocol within a correctional setting. It further demonstrated that incarcerated IPV offenders perceived ACT to be an acceptable and useful treatment approach. The quantitative data, however, do not support the widespread dissemination of this ACT protocol with incarcerated IPV offenders at this time. Future research should follow-up on these discrepant findings by testing this ACT protocol with a larger sample, randomizing into ACT versus control group, including multiple follow-up time points, collecting one-year recidivism data, and exploring the effects of longer treatment and alternate forms of delivery (e.g., combination of individual and group sessions). Strengths and limitations of the study, as well as additional recommendations and directions for future research, are discussed.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, domestic violence, forensic psychology, Intimate partner violence, mental health
Copyright 2016 Rosaura E. Orengo-Aguayo