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The Evidence Hour: Helping without Harming: Educating Mental Health Professionals on Working with Survivors of IPV

July Evidence Hour Reminder

Center for Victim Research’s webinar series, The Evidence Hour, showcases a recent systematic review* or meta-analysis about victimization, trauma, or victim services. Each webinar features an author of the research and a practitioner discussant who will review the findings and reflect on what they mean for victim service providers and researchers.

On July 27, Amber Sutton and Haley Beech surveyed their findings from a systematic review about the state of training for mental health professionals to work with survivors of intimate partner violence. The presenters also discussed how therapists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals can apply a feminist, intersectional framework in safety planning and honoring lived experiences. The recording will be available on CVR’s YouTube channel:


This webinar is based on findings from this article: “Preparing Mental Health Professionals to Work With Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence: A Comprehensive Systematic Review of the Literature” by Amber Sutton et al. (2020), in Affilia. [Email the Center for Victim Research Librarian for article access].


Related Research on Survivors’ Mental Health Needs:

  • Mental health therapists’ perceived barriers to addressing intimate partner violence and suicide (Abstract) by  J. L. Wilson et al. (2021). Families, Systems, & Health. This community-based participatory research project with a New York City community mental health center investigated therapist-identified barriers in addressing the intersection of IPV and suicide. Characteristics that created barriers to helping survivors included feelings of helplessness, a lack of appropriate training, and apprehension about “harming the therapeutic relationship by discussing IPV and suicide at length.” On a broader level, mental health professionals saw their communities as lacking local support systems and financial resources. Finally, therapists also ran into challenges with policy-related limitations on service, like short appointment times. These study findings will inform a patient curriculum for dealing with IPV and suicide. [Contact the Librarian for full-text access]
  • Evaluating the Relationship Between Intimate Partner Violence-Related Training and Mental Health Professionals’ Assessment of Relationship Problems by S.C. Burns et al. (2021), Journal of Interpersonal Violence. This global survey of psychologists and psychiatrists analyzed how timing of training, hours of training, and depth of training about intimate partner violence affected their ability to identify relationship problems. Researchers found that current World Health Organization’s guidelines on IPV identification were not sufficient for mental health professionals to accurately distinguish between different types of abusive relationship problems. Recent, experiential training did improve the likelihood that clinicians could discern abuse from relationship issues.
  • Women survivors’ accounts of seeing psychologists: harm or benefit? (Abstract) by S. Marsden, C. Humphreys, & K. Hegarty (2021). Journal of Gender-Based Violence. This Australian study included interviews with 20 woman survivors of intimate partner violence about their experiences seeking mental healthcare. Participants experienced both negative and positive interactions during counseling. Negative experiences tended to reflect abusive dynamics; positive experiences tended to include empowering, trauma-informed, feminist practices.
  • Counseling advocacy competencies in action: Lessons learned through the See the Triumph campaign by C.E. Murray & A. Crowe, (2016) in Journal for Social Action in Counseling & Psychology. This article outlines the social media campaign led by counselors and counselor educators to end stigma around intimate partner violence. One table provides examples of how the campaign’s infographics, messaging, research, and resources align with the American Counseling Association’s Advocacy Competencies.

Related Resources from our Research2Practice Network:

What are Systematic Reviews?

  1. A systematic review is the process of bringing together all available studies about a well-defined question, analyzing the quality of their study methods, and summarizing their findings.
  2. Systematic reviews often use a statistical practice called meta-analysis. This means combining data from multiple studies, to find patterns and calculate the average effect of the intervention.
  3. Because systematic reviews pool results from many experiments and rate the methods of each study, these reviews increase our confidence in the quality and consistency of the evidence and what it means for the field.

Basically, systematic reviews take a large amount of information about a complex issue from multiple sources and make that information more manageable and usable. These reviews can also help make sense of conflicting findings from different studies.

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