A service gap for domestic abuse
In 2010 Rebecca Wellaway, Manager of Relate Exeter & District office identified a ‘service gap’ where, when a couple presented and domestic violence and abuse was disclosed or suspected as an issue, but if the man did not take sufficient responsibility or make acknowledgement of a problem, then no safe and effective referral to couples work could be made, and no service could be offered.
Rebecca also felt that experience on the ground was suggesting a proportion of couples might not conform to a ‘traditional’ feminist power and control analysis and that Relate’s traditional approach did not fully reflect the complexity workers were encountering. This was a view confirmed by Relate's own research* where around 30% of couples did not contain 'a more powerful partner' as required by a feminist anslysis.
This view was shared by Rachel Martin of Devon County Council’s Action Against Domestic Violence (ADVA), who suggested approaching Ignition after seeing Dr Mark Farrall present on the research evidence behind a ‘gender inclusive’ approach.
Choosing to Change
Ignition was commissioned to develop a brief (five session) motivational input, utilising the evidence-based approach of Motivational Interviewing (MI): rooted in Rogerian person-centered counselling this approach sat well with Relate’s therapeutically-informed ethos.
The programme offered structure with flexibility, and was targeted at men identified as the ‘primary aggressor’ for whom a referral to couple work was not possible. By engaging the man and increasing intrinsic motivation to change, the aim was to close the ‘service gap’.
A cohort of counsellors was trained in the model, named ‘Choosing to Change’, and this was piloted at Exeter in Summer 2010. Following internal evaluation the model was revised and re-piloted with an expanded partner’s programme, moving beyond a simple ‘information giving’ focus to ensure both male and female partner were at the same motivational point at referral for couples work after the programme.
Rebecca Wellaway, Manager of the centre, said: “We identified that the men who were most resistant or reluctant, might benefit from a therapeutically informed intervention but, in the absence of a safe and appropriate way of working, we were having to refer clients to agengies outside of Relate. We were aware that the engagement with other agencies by this group was low; the motivational programme of Choosing to Change filled a much-needed gap enabling us to begin to engage safely and effectively with this client group".
A copy of an article written by Rebecca and Mark Farrall, on Choosing to Change, is available in the Resources section of the website (Farrall & Wellaway 2011).
* 'An interim evaluation of the Responsive Model' is available in the Resources section of the website.