The Efficacy of a Self-Help Program for Women Survivors of Domestic Violence

According to the Australian Personal Safety Survey (ABS, 2012), 16.9% of women (1,479,900) and 5% of men (448,000) have experienced violence from an intimate partner since the age of 15.  And 25% of women and 14% of men over the age of 18 have experienced emotional abuse from their intimate partner.

Dr. Lenore Walker developed the Cycle of Violence diagram in 1979 to reflect the phases that consistently occur within violent relationships.  However, the diagram below incorporates this Cycle of Violence, while more accurately reflecting the interconnectedness and increasing nature of these cycles over time.

Women are trained in violent relationships to blame themselves, to lose trust in themselves and their own abilities, to be desensitised to the abuse, to care greatly for the perpetrator, to lose all their social supports and self confidence, and to constantly manage stress and fear.

Given the frequency of domestic violence and the significant impact for those that live in these relationships, there is an urgent need to expand the range of accessible and effective clinical interventions.

The success of self-help or distance programs in the treatment of anxiety and depression has been demonstrated in numerous clinical studies.  Providing self-help/distance programs for women who have experienced DV is expected to have similar positive effects due to the nature of the key components of DV counselling.  These components include a heavy emphasis on psychoeducation, the use of CBT to challenge beliefs and enhance mindfulness, and the focus on building self esteem and resilience.

It is expected that in many cases, these programs will completely fulfill the needs of women surviving domestic violence.  There will also be many that do not want to utilise this format.  These programs can be used as a complement or alternative to face-to-face counselling where the survivor themselves feels this is appropriate.  They give women survivors of DV more options for accessing the interventions they need to recover.

The program currently under evaluation is: From the Inside Out – Finding your freedom from controlling and violent relationships (Leanne Donoghue-Tamplin, 2016).  This program covers the areas usually addressed in DV counselling using a discovery learning format.

Further expansion of the treatment modalities available for women survivors of DV must become a priority for researchers and clinicians to help reduce the burden of DV on our society and on the women and children that have escaped these relationships.

Author: Leanne Donoghue-Tamplin, Psychologist and Director of Real Success Pty Ltd
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Personal Safety Survey Australia, 2012, cat. no. 4906.0, ABS, Canberra, 2012.
Donoghue-Tamplin, L. (2016) From the Inside Out: Finding your Freedom from Controlling and Violent Relationships. Self-published: Sydney Australia.

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