The Bob Woodruff Foundation has awarded Casey Taft, PhD, professor of Psychiatry, a second grant for the national expansion of an intervention to prevent and reduce intimate partner violence in veteran populations.
The foundation is supporting the replication of the Strength at Home initiative in 17 Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare settings nationwide. The 2017 grant also will support the training of 10 regional instructors, who will train clinicians across the VA healthcare system.
Strength at Home is the only domestic violence program found to be effective in a randomized clinical trial studying the prevention and/or reduction of physical and/or psychological violence in couples. A previous study by Taft found that one-third of all veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reported recent physical partner violence, while 91 percent reported psychological aggression within the past year – a finding that likely underestimates true incidence.
Strength at Home is unique in addressing the trauma that is often significant for people with a history of violent behavior –utilizing an approach that is typically not used by the majority of domestic violence programs. This is done through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) group sessions and related practice assignments designed to help participants put into place strategies that they learn in group sessions. Veterans with trauma, “are more likely to assume the worst in others, respond with hostility, and have difficulty with controlling behaviors because of their prior experiences,” said Taft. The CBT group sessions help Strength at Home participants learn to communicate more effectively, express feelings underlying anger, and de-escalate difficult situations.
With funding from the Bob Woodruff Foundation, Taft and clinician colleagues have trained providers and service leaders at VA healthcare sites in the delivery of Strength at Home. After trainings, they provide follow-up consultation to sites on program implementation and evaluation. Each Strength at Home sites is expected to serve 20 individuals – and their partners – annually.
“The additional training funded by the foundation’s 2017 grant will be instrumental in supporting the sustainability of Strength at Home,” said Taft. “By building the capacity of trainers to prepare their regional colleagues to implement Strength at Home, we are increasing the likelihood that the program will re-generate without the need for continuous funding.”
The grant from the Bob Woodruff Foundation will accelerate the recommendation by the Department of Veterans Affairs domestic violence task force to implement Strength at Home across the VA system. “We owe it to our veterans and their loved ones to help with the psychological consequences of war,” said Terence Keane, PhD, professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Behavioral Sciences Division of the National Center for PTSD. “We greatly appreciate the renewed commitment by the Bob Woodruff Foundation to preventing this too-frequent reality for veterans following service.”