Optimizing trauma-informed intervention for intimate partner violence in veterans: The role of alexithymia

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Recent research supports the efficacy of Strength at Home-Men's Program (SAH-M), a trauma-informed group intervention designed to reduce use of intimate partner violence (IPV) in veterans (Taft, Macdonald, Creech, Monson, & Murphy, 2016). However, change-processes facilitating the effectiveness of SAH-M have yet to be specified. Alexithymia, a deficit in the cognitive processing of emotional experience characterized by difficulty identifying and distinguishing between feelings, difficulty describing feelings, and use of an externally oriented thinking style, has been shown to predict PTSD severity and impulsive aggression; however, no studies have investigated the relationship between alexithymia and IPV. As such, the current study examined the role of improvements in alexithymia as a potential facilitator of treatment efficacy among 135 male veterans/service members, in a randomized control trial SAH-M. After an initial assessment including measures of IPV and alexithymia, participants were randomized to an Enhanced Treatment as Usual (ETAU) condition or SAH-M. Participants were assessed three and six months after baseline. Results demonstrated a statistically significant association between alexithymia and use of psychological IPV at baseline. Moreover, participants in the SAH-M condition self-reported significantly greater reductions in alexithymia over time relative to ETAU participants. Findings suggest that a trauma-informed intervention may optimize outcomes, helping men who use IPV both limit their use of violence and improve deficits in emotion processing.




Berke, D. S., Macdonald, A., Poole, G. M., Portnoy, G. A., McSheffrey, S., Creech, S. K., & Taft, C. T. (2017). Optimizing trauma-informed intervention for intimate partner violence in veterans: The role of alexithymia. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 97, 222–229. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2017.08.007

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