The systematic literature review search was carried with a focus on the study topic of ‘The effectiveness of counselling female victims of intimate partner violence’. Systematic searches were carried out on relevant websites, such as Google Scholar, and the Cochrane and Ebscow databases. I focused on previous research on domestic abuse and the effectiveness of counselling victims. There proved to be little evidence so I refined my search using a variety of keywords, such as domestic violence, intimate partner violence, counselling, effectiveness, impact, cognitive behavioural therapy, and violence against women. I realised from my search results that I would have to refine my question due to the limited relevant material available. Papers included in my review were selected on the basis of content, for instance, the adequate use of dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), and another for its use of the stages of change model. One paper was quickly excluded due to its main focus being the women’s experiences of intimate partner violence rather than the effectiveness of treating or counselling the victim.
Intimate partner violence (IPV), towards women, is a pervasive problem and has a destructive impact emotionally and physically on the victim and their families. For women suffering from the effects of IPV the fundamental goal is to escape the violence and distress of the relationship. There is no dependable data on domestic abuse but the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) offers the best statistics available. The Office for National Statistics (2016), estimates that 1.3 million women experienced some form of domestic abuse in the year ending March 2016.
Intimate partner violence can be defined as behaviour within a relationship that causes harm to either one of the couple. This includes behaviour such as, physically hitting or beating, psychological intimidation or humiliation, rape or other sexual abuse, and controlling behaviour, such as isolating, financial control, and monitoring behaviours, violent episodes within relationships is equal for men and women, yet repeated violence and abuse is committed by men against women (Hegarty, Taft, and Feder, 2008). The impact of intimate partner violence can have long and short-term negative repercussions even after the abuse has stopped. Psychological disorders are a far more persistent and damaging result of abuse, in particular, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, depression and substance abuse, (Golding, 1999).
Prochaska and DiClemente, (1982), together developed an integrative, biopsychosocial model called The Transtheoretical Model, also known as the stages of change model. Fundamentally the model focuses on the process of the potential changing behaviour of the client. The assumption is that people are not quick at changing their behaviour, therefore they will move through the stages at their own pace. Other models of changing behaviour tend to centre solely on social or biological influences, the Transtheoretical model looks to combine and include the main ideas from other theories into a broad theory of change that may be applied to a range of behaviours. The five stages of change are precontemplation, meaning not ready to change, contemplation, meaning getting ready to change, preparation, meaning ready to change, action, meaning making changes and maintenance, meaning working to prevent relapse. The stages of change model used to help facilitate changes in clients problematic behaviours, for instance stopping smoking or obsessive-compulsive behaviours can also be effectively adapted and used as an approach to counsel clients who suffer from domestic abuse (Fraiser et al 2001). This model is particularly effective in working with clients to adequately identify their current situation, the benefit being to pinpoint potential health outcomes not only for themselves but for family members too. However, Frasier et al (2001), noted that this model was developed with the caveat that domestic abuse victims were not seen as having problematic behaviour, but that their partner was, in fact, the one with the behaviour problems. However, as domestic abuse victims are generally faced with significant decisions and possible changes affecting their well-being the process of the stages of change model appeared to be distinctly suitable. Qualitative studies, (Zink et al, 2004) have shown that women in violent and abusive relationships have different needs depending on what stage they are at in the cycle of change. Feder et al (2006) suggested that for women who were at the pre-contemplation stage they needed to see a possible connection of their symptoms to their personal experience of abuse. For the women, at the contemplation stage, their need was to have some encouragement to explore and see the potential changes that can be made with the clinician’s help. At the decision stage, further support and resources were required to help them and finally, at the action stage, the need for some women was for their injuries to be recorded and potentially a referral to the best psychological help available.