Exploring America’s evidence-based therapies for children affected by domestic violence

Published: 5 Sep 2017

Author: Jenny Griffiths
Exploring America’s evidence-based therapies for children affected by domestic violence

Dr Jenny Griffiths, a Clinical Psychologist who works for an NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in Bristol, has recently returned from travelling for six weeks in Australia and the USA exploring therapeutic interventions for young children and their parents affected by domestic violence. Jenny’s travels were enabled by a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship Award.

In the UK it is estimated that between 240,000 to 963,000 children have been exposed to domestic violence1. Children exposed to domestic violence are more likely to have behavioural and emotional problems2, and have a diminished ability to learn, relax and play.

One highlight from Jenny’s travels was learning about Attachment and BioBehavioural Catchup (ABC), a ten-session intervention delivered in the home using video to help parents behave in more nurturing ways towards their child. Jenny visited Mary Dozier and her colleagues at the University of Delaware, who developed the intervention. She also attended a two-day training session for an organisation in New York seeking to use ABC.

Jenny also benefitted from attending groups and supervision of The Peek a Boo Club (PAB), which is run by a ‘family violence’ charity in Melbourne. She met Wendy Bunston and Frances Thomson-Salo who developed the group, as well as Professor Louise Newman, the head of Women’s Mental Health. PAB is a group intervention for mothers and young children who have experienced domestic violence. Jenny was impressed by how mothers felt able to open up and feel welcome in a mother and baby group in a way they had not been able to before. The group helps mothers to tune in to their infant’s experience of violence and how this affects their ability to regulate emotion now.

Jenny also attended Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) training in San Francisco and met Chandra Ghosh-Ippen and Alicia Lieberman from the Child Trauma Research Program, also meeting colleagues in Oakland and Los Angeles. CPP is a fifty-session in-depth intervention informed by trauma theory. Jenny was impressed by how learning from current trauma research is used to continually develop and enhance this intervention.

“It was a real privilege to spend time with such world-expert colleagues who have demonstrated in their research, the effectiveness of their interventions on helping these traumatised infants and parents. Seeing how services are structured and funded across the world has inspired me to try to change how we do things here in the UK” -Jenny Griffiths

Now back in the UK, Jenny plans to share her learning with her colleagues, at conferences and through journal articles. She also hopes to gain funding to trial one or more of the interventions she observed here in the UK.

Read Jenny's report here

1. Unicef: Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

2. Humphreys, C. (2006) Relevant evidence for practice. In: C. Humphreys and N. Stanley (eds.) Domestic violence and child protection: directions for good practice.

Notes to Editors

For further information, contact the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust press office on 020 7799 1678 or [email protected]