Introduction Domestic violence is one of the most pressing issues facing social workers today. It occurs between individuals of all ages and nationalities, at all socioeconomic levels, and in families from all types of religious and non-religious backgrounds (Straus & Gelles, 1990; Carter & McGoldrick, 1999). Domestic violence remains a significant social and public health problem affecting not just the couple but the entire family as well. Increased parental conflict negatively impacts children’s academic, behavioral and social-emotional functioning and the parents’ well being (Carlson, 2000; Carter & McGoldrick, 1999; Lyon, 1998).
The overall rate of incident has been found to be similar for city, suburban, and rural communities (Straus & Gelles, 1990). According to Carter and McGoldrick (1999), violence is a widespread occurrence in families throughout the life cycle in our society as it is in all other patriarchal cultures. The World Health Organization (2002) cited a study brought together population surveys in 48 countries, which indicated that 10-69% of women reported experiencing physical violence from a male partner at some stage in their life. In the United States, approximately 4. million acts of physical or sexual violence are perpetrated against women; while 2. 9 million physically aggressive acts are committed against men each year (Straus & Gelles, 1990). The Population Domestic Violence is the most widespread form of violence in the United States and is the major cause of injury to women. In the United States a woman is beaten every nine seconds (Kosof, 1995). According to the first major study of battered women, conducted in 1976, women experienced physical assault in nearly one third of all American families (Kosof, 1995).
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Every year, an estimated three to four million women in the United States were beaten in their homes by a husband, ex-husband, or male lover (Kosof, 1995). Twenty percent of hospital emergency room visits by women are due to battering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, a woman is in nine time’s more likely to be a victim of a violent act in her own home than on the streets (Kosof, 1995). In the same manner, more than fifty percent of all women killed in the United States are killed by their male partners (Kosof, 1995).
According to the American Medical Association, certain groups of women are at higher risk for becoming victims of abuse (Kosof, 1995). These include women who: are single, separated or divorced (or planning a separation or divorce), are between the ages of 17 and 28, abuse alcohol and/or other drugs or whose partners do, are pregnant, and have partners who are excessively jealous or possessive. Domestic Violence is a silent epidemic that occurs in all socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural, racial and religious groups.
These statistics are frightening, and so too is the life of the person who has been battered or is being battered. The Ecological Perspective According to the ecology of human development an individual is not seen as a passive, static, and isolated entity on which the environment exerts great influence, but as a dynamic and evolving being that interacts with, and thereby restructures, the many environments with which it comes into contact (Gardner & Kosmitzki, 2008).
The ecological model offers a broad-based conceptualization of domestic violence that takes into account the complex interactions between the individual, the family, the community, and societal risk factors. For example, at the individual level, factors that can increase the level of risk to the victim include substance abuse, unemployment, and poverty, history of abuse as a child, isolated from friends and/or family, and mental or physical disability.
These factors increase the likelihood of domestic abuse. However, other factors may be protective and reduce the level of risk to the victim, which include: the victim’s abilities to cope, cognitive abilities, and the presence of social supports or affectionate family ties (Holden & Nabors, 1999). In the same manner, in relation to the ecological framework family factors would refer to the processes in the family such as family environment, family interaction, family stressors, and parenting skills.
Family stress in conjunction with financial difficulties, chronic poverty and unemployment is one major area that could overwhelm a family’s capacity to function. The stresses and strains of socioeconomic hardship are associated with higher rates of domestic violence (Kaufman Kantor & Straus, 1999). Community factors refer to the community in which the family lives, the peer groups of the family members, the formal and informal supports, the availability of jobs, the availability and access to community services (i. e. transportation, mental health services, health care, shelters).
Increased levels of neighborhood crime and family poverty can impact and increase the risk and co-occurrence of domestic violence and child maltreatment (Andrews, 1996). At the societal level, the established laws and policies in relations to domestic violence may in fact fail to protect the victim and consequently re-victimize her. For example, domestic violence victims are increasingly being charged for “failure to protect” even when the partner is abusing the child and the mother (Beeman, Hagemeister, & Edelson, 1999).
In addition, some states have considered legislation that makes a child’s witnessing of domestic violence a form of criminal abuse (Beeman, Hagemeister & Edelson, 1999) and, consequently a reason to remove the child from the home. Finally, due to mandatory arrest laws, dual arrests in domestic violence cases have significantly increased. As a direct result, perpetrators and victims may be treated as indistinguishable and battered women can suffer the same consequences as the batterer (Lyon, 1998). Treatment Approach
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), also know as Solution-Focused Therapy, Solution-Building Practice therapy was developed by Steve de Shazer (1940-2005), and Insoo Kim Berg (1934-2007) and their colleagues beginning in the late 1970’s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As the name suggests, SFBT is future-focused, goal-directed, and focuses on solutions, rather than on the problems. Solution-Focused Therapy operates within a conceptual framework that views people living and creating new narratives about their lives that extend beyond their problem-focused ones. (Cooper & Lesser, 2008).
It represents a systematic, strengths-based collaborative approach to support individuals, couples, or families. Due to the fact that these systems are interrelated (whether they are individuals within the family or the individual’s personal emotions, cognitions, or behaviors) changes within one-domain effects the other. SFBT conducts the same process regardless of the issues or problems that the individual client brings to therapy. SFBT is an approach that focuses on how clients change, rather than one which focuses on diagnosing and treating problems (Corsini & Wedding, 2008).
As such it uses the language of change. The signature questions used in solution-focused interviews are intended to set-up a therapeutic process wherein social workers listen for and absorb clients’ words and meanings (regarding what is important to clients, what they want, and related successes), then formulate and ask the next question by connecting to clients’ key words and phrases, continue to listen and absorb as clients again answer from their frames of reference, and once again formulate and ask the next question by similarly connecting.
It is through this process of listening, absorbing, connecting, and client responding that social workers and clients together co-construct new and altered meanings that build toward solutions.
The major components of SFBT include: (1) Developing a cooperative therapeutic alliance with the client; (2) Creating a solution versus problem focus; (3) Setting measurable and changeable goals; (4) Focusing on the future, through future oriented questions and discussions; (5) Scaling the ongoing attainment of the goals to get the client’s evaluation of the progress made; (6) Focusing the conversation on exceptions to the client’s problems, especially those exceptions related to what they want different, and encouraging them to do more of what they did to make the exceptions happen.
According to Trepper, et. al. (2006) the main interventions utilized with SFBT are as follows: (1) A positive, collegial, solution-focused stance; (2) Looking for previous solutions; (3) Looking for exceptions; (4) Questions versus directive or interpretations; (5) Present and future-focused questions versus past-orientated focus; (6) Compliments; and Gentle nudging to do more of what is working. The specific interventions utilized are (1) Pre-session change; (2) (3) Solution-focused goals; (4) The Miracle Question; and (4) Scaling Questions.
Implementing SFBT with Domestic Violence Survivors The ultimate goal of the Social Worker to provide a therapeutic context for domestic violence female survivors to re-discover and re-connect with their own resourcefulness in resisting, avoiding, escaping, and fighting against the abuse, develop a vision of a life free of violence, and empower to re-experience their personal power in bringing positive changes in their lives (Lee, 2007). This approach adopts different assumptions and methods in assisting the female survivors to achieve these ends.
Rather than building the treatment strategies upon understanding the problem of violence, SFBT suggests a positive change in clients that can occur by focusing on solutions, strengths, and competencies instead of focusing on problems, deficits and pathology (Lee, 2007). The initial step of optimizing the success of solution-focused therapy is based on the Social Worker’s ability to recognize and respect the client’s strengths, abilities, and accomplishments (Lee, 2007).
During treatment with a DV survivor, the Social Worker can utilize different questions to assist the client to construct solution patters that does not subject her to violence and abuse in intimate relationships. Exception questions refer to times when the problem is either absent, less intense, or dealt with in a manner that is acceptable to the client. These questions can focus on the times when the client is better able to protect her and to resist, avoid, escape and fight against violence. Outcome questions can be used to assist the client in establishing goals for herself.
Outcome questions ask the client to state goals in a positive manner rather than in the negative. In the same manner, coping questions assist the client in recognizing her resources in times of turmoil. Coping questions ask the client to talk about how she manages to survive and cope with the problems. The Social Worker must be careful to focus the question on how the client copes with the abuse because these questions may potentially collude with and therefore, run the danger of reinforcing the abuse.
The scaling questions ask the client to rank their situation and/or goal on a scale of 1-10, with 1 representing the worst scenario and 10 representing the most desirable outcome (Lee, 2007). These questions are a simple tool for the client to quantify and evaluate her situation and progress so that she can establish clear indicators of change for herself. Relationship questions ask the client how her significant others are reacting to her problem and solution finding progress.
Establishment of multiple indicators of change empowers the client to develop a clear vision of a desired future appropriate to her real-life context. Finally, SFBT utilizes task assignment or homework to help the client identify exception behaviors to the problem for which they are encouraged to “do more of what works” Conclusion In conclusion, the SFBT techniques encourage the client to be curious about her behaviors and potentials and identify, expand, amplify and reinforce solution-oriented behaviors.
The Social Worker begins the therapeutic process by understanding the client’s unique experience of her life situation and battering experience. The Social Worker orients the client find solutions for her concerns. While understanding the client’s construction of her situation, the Social Worker, concurrently asks solution-oriented questions to assess risk and mental health status of the client. Utilizing outcome questions, the Social Worker helps the client establish specific, concrete, goals that are stated as desirable behaviors.
The Social Worker continually asks exception, outcome, coping, relationship, and scaling questions to assist the client to construct an alternative reality that does not contain violence in her intimate relationships. The Social Worker then compliments the client on any of her positive behaviors and suggestions that are conductive to her self-defined goals. Effectively utilizing these techniques the Social Worker can achieve the ultimate goal of therapy—empowerment of the client. References Andrews, A. B. (1996). Developing community systems for the primary prevention of family violence.
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Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention, 7(2), 102-114. Solution –Focused Brief therapy from a global context. (2003). Retrieved November 10, 2008 from http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=tz4-Dj6sguw. Straus, M. A. , & Gelles, R. J. (Eds. ). (1990). Physical violence in the American families: Risk factors and adaptation to family violence in 8,145 families. New Jersey: Transaction. Trepper, T. S. , Dolan, Y. , & McCollum, T. N. (2006). Steve De Shazer and the future of solution-focused therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 32, 133-139.
The Urban Child Institute. (2008). Family Violence Community Resource Guide. World Health Organization. (2002). World report on violence and health: Summary. Geneva: Author. ———————– Running Head: SFBT with DV Survivors 08 Utilizing Solution-Focused Brief Therapy with Survivors of Domestic Violence Teresa Franklin, MS, MBA A Paper Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of SW562—Evidence Based Practice with Adult Individuals Sarah Hamil, LCSW, RPT-S, ATR-BC ———————– 7 SFBT with DV Survivors