Domestic violence, we know, leaves physical and emotional scars. Yet, often, the effects are greater than we think.
Studying 1,052 mothers as part of the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, a team of researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London in England, the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal (IUSMM), and the University of Montreal followed them for 10 years. Over the decade, the researchers conducted multiple interviews to determine whether the subjects had suffered violence from their spouses and whether they suffered from mental health disorders, as well as factors such as their personal history, and the presence of childhood abuse and economic poverty. Only subjects with no previous history of depression were considered for the study.
So what did the study unveil? More than one third of the women reported suffering violence from their spouses (e.g., being pushed or hit with an object); women who reported abuse had a more extensive history of childhood abuse, abuse of illicit substances, economic poverty, early pregnancy, and an antisocial personality; they were twice as likely to suffer from depression, even when controlling for the impact of childhood abuse; and domestic violence led to a three times higher risk of developing schizophrenia-like psychotic symptoms. This risk doubled for women who were also victims of childhood abuse (Ouellet-Morin et al., 2015).
Another study found that just witnessing domestic violence also has long-term mental health ramifications. Examining a nationally representative sample of 22,559 community-dwelling Canadians, using data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health, and defining parental domestic violence as “chronic” if it had occurred more than 10 times before the respondent was age 16, researchers from the University of Toronto (U of T), found the lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts among adults who had been exposed to chronic parental domestic violence during childhood was 17.3% compared to 2.3% among those without this childhood adversity (Fuller-Thompson et al., 2016).
What studies like this tell us is that domestic violence, whether experienced or witnessed, has serious and prolonged consequences for our mental health.
Yet, for clinicians, detecting domestic violence is not so simple. For one thing, many women are afraid to disclose or may fear their abusers reactions if they do. They may also feel like they can’t leave, or will be judged or criticized if they choose not to.
Then there is the issue of the best way to help victims of domestic violence. Should they be encouraged to leave right away? What about safety planning? What about treating the corresponding mental health issues like depression and anxiety? What is the best approach?
Clearly, treatment efficacy will depend on a clinician who is educated about domestic violence, but also understands the complex nature of it. Moreover, the clinician will need to know how to implement a safety plan, connect the client to community resources, and perhaps most importantly, facilitate the conversation about if and when to leave.
Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:
Domestic Violence: Child Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course intended to help healthcare professionals maintain a high state of vigilance and to be well prepared with immediate and appropriate responses when abuse is disclosed. Domestic violence, in the form of child abuse and intimate partner violence, remains a pervasive part of contemporary life in the U.S. Its effects are deep and far-reaching. This course will teach clinicians to detect abuse when they see it, screen for the particulars, and respond with definitive assistance in safety planning, community referrals, and individualized treatment plans. There is a special section on the complexity of an abuse victim’s decision about if and when to leave an abuser. This course meets the Domestic Violence license renewal requirement of all Florida licensees. Course #21-12 | 2016 | 42 pages | 15 posttest questions
How Children Become Violent is a 6-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that examines the cycle of youth violence and sexual offending and how this cycle can be broken. This course was written for professionals working in the mental health, child welfare, juvenile justice/criminal justice, and research fields, as well as students studying these fields. The authors’ goal is to make a case for the fact that juvenile and adult violence begins very early in life, and it is both preventable and treatable. The author draws on her 30 years of experience working in and researching violence to demonstrate that society must intervene early in the lives of children living in violent, neglectful, criminal, and substance-dependent families. This course provides information about the problems of violence — in its various forms of abuse, neglect, and just plain senseless killing — that takes place in this country. These are problems that are seldom handled well by governmental agencies of child welfare, juvenile justice, education, and mental health. This results in more problems, turning into a cycle of youth violence and sexual offending that will potentially continue for generations. However, with the correct intervention, this cycle can be broken, which creates a safer environment for all of society. Closeout Course #60-68 | 2006 | 136 pages | 36 posttest questions
Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).
Target Audience: Psychologists, Counselors, Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapist (MFTs), Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), Occupational Therapists (OTs), Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), School Psychologists, and Teachers
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