Suzanne Binley, Centre Director of Relate Northamptonshire, had for some time identified a similar service gap to that seen by Relate Exeter and District regarding couples presenting with issues of intimate partner violence and abuse (see Exeter Relate case study).
Under current arrangements, it was often not possible to provide a service and refer couples on to core Relate couples counselling because of potential risk factors associated with this type of work and Relate Centres were only in the position to offer the couple individual separate ‘bridging’ services.
Despite Relate’s positioning with couples relationship work, Suzanne felt that the Centre needed to offer an alternative to ‘bridging’ work as an improved means to support couples experiencing intimate partner violence and abuse. Suzanne was made aware of the Choosing to Change motivational engagement by Relate Ltd and the pilot that had been undertaken by Relate Exeter and District and she was very interested in the opportunity of providing an intervention in a 1-2-1 setting, rather than a group.
Having met with Dr Mark Farrall, Director of ignition Creative Learning, Suzanne was very impressed with the research behind Choosing to Change, the motivational interviewing techniques used throughout the intervention and Relate Exeter’s positive experience.
It was these particular factors that were instrumental in selecting the programme for delivery across the county of Northamptonshire and that the intervention could help in addressing a gap in service provision where couples present with one-off and low risk incidents.
In July 2013 ignition trained a cohort of Relate Northamptonshire counsellors alongside a cohort of counsellors from Relate Coventry, in the Choosing to Change programme model.
Suzanne commented: “Once Choosing to Change was up and running we saw how effective it was, especially in dealing with clients who recognised the potential for escalation in abusive behaviour in their own couple relationship, but also referrals from social services whose clients present with high levels of resistance. Choosing to Change has been an excellent way of expanding the client group to whom we offer a service and I would recommend it to any colleagues/centres looking for an alternative approach to supporting domestic violence and abuse”
In due course Relate Northamptonshire hopes to train a further cohort of counsellors in Choosing to Change, and they are also interested in calling on ignition’s expertise to develop variations of the core programme for female perpetrators and same sex relationship abuse.