JUN 12 - 14  

Introductory Training in the DIARI: Decision-Making in Abusive Relationships

Clinicians routinely encounter clients that are in an abusive relationship. Although many formal interventions and assessments exist, most are focused on the offender and few on the victim of intimate partner violence (IPV). Yet, “To fully understand the dynamics of abusive relationships, it will [also] be necessary to look at both partners” (Henderson et al., 1997, p.187). When working with IPV victims, efforts may sometimes be met with resistance, shame, or a desire to repair the relationship on the victim’s end. It is essential to be mindful that victims of IPV typically want the violence to end, not the relationship. Neglecting to assess the victim, taking into account her current context and frame of mind, we run the risk of not meeting our client halfway – which can lead to a deterioration in the service/therapeutic relationship. Safety and intervention planning with IPV victims remains a challenging task, in part because we often have insufficient knowledge to understand the decision-making of abused women .

This workshop will provide training in the Decision-making In Abusive Relationships Interview (DIARI; Nicholls, Hilterman, & Goossens, 2017), a 25-item clinical guide for the dynamic assessment of five risk/need domains (Relationship characteristics, Social context, Nature and pattern of the abuse, Victim characteristics, Abuser characteristics) for female victims of IPV (e.g., physical, psychological, financial, sexual abuse). DIARI represents a refinement in the assessment and prevention of IPV in that it intends to provide clinicians with a framework to: (1) assess the woman’s needs in the context of an abusive relationship, (2) while differentially paying attention to aspects relevant to revictimization risk, and (3) the woman’s capacity to maintain her safety, as well as her will to seek and accept support.

DIARI guides clinicians toward evaluating and documenting decision-making regarding the client’s need level, safety and intervention planning. DIARI is intended for use with women who are currently in an abusive relationship or still in contact with an abusive ex-partner (e.g., stalking, harassment, contemplating entering back into the relationship). The ultimate objective of the assessment is to: (1) create a holistic safety and/or intervention plan, (2) reduce the presence of risks, and (3) increase the likelihood that the woman will seek help and/or accept offered interventions. For instance, the DIARI may be useful for enhancing the insight of the woman with respect to her situation.


The morning of the workshop will focus on the empirical and theoretical rationale for assessing multiple facets of IPV across various life domains (e.g., nature of the abuse, social context, victim and abuser characteristics) using a single instrument. Participants will demonstrate an increased awareness of the contributions and importance of multifaceted assessment when working with IPV victims. The role of static and dynamic variables, including in risk assessment and management also will be discussed. This will be followed by the step-by-step instruction in how to conduct a DIARI assessment. Participants will become familiar with the item descriptions, so that they will be able to validly and reliably code the 25 DIARI items.

The afternoon will require participants to integrate the knowledge and skills learned throughout the morning. Facilitators will guide group discussions of a DIARI assessment. Participants will learn “hands on” through group coding of a case vignette. The final component of the workshop will involve a discussion of the implementation and integration of the DIARI into everyday practice both in institutional and community services, highlighting its potential utility in the assessment of (safety) needs, but also in the development of integrated treatment plans and safety management strategies.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the role of static and dynamic need factors in safety assessment, planning and management with women experiencing or at risk of IPV
  • Become more familiar with the role of strengths and needs in client safety planning, with the intent of maximally preserving victim autonomy, ensuring service collaboration and ultimately improving safety
  • Learn how to administer, interpret, and implement DIARI assessments


Dr. Tonia L. Nicholls is Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychology, Simon Fraser University, and Distinguished Scientist at the Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission, BC Mental Health & Substance Use Services.  She currently holds  a 7-year foundation grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Her scholarly work earned her three ‘Brain Star’ awards from the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health, and Addictions (CIHR), the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions, and the Canadian Psychological Association President's New Researcher Award. She obtained a Ph.D. with a specialization in Law and Forensic Psychology from Simon Fraser University. She then completed a three-year Post Doctoral Fellowship at the Department of Psychiatry, UBC, and the BC Institute Against Family Violence, Canada. She received the Canadian Psychological Association President’s New Researcher Award and the American Psychological Association’s award for Distinguished Professional Contributions for her work in developing the Jail Screening Assessment Tool (JSAT, Nicholls et al., 2005). Dr. Nicholls is a co-author of the START manual and the START: Adolescent Version.  She has presented > 80 workshops in Canada, the US, and Europe, and has been invited to give keynote lectures for several national and international organizations including IAFMHS, ANZAPPL, Correctional Services of Canada, and the gender institute of CIHR.

Ed Hilterman is a sociologist and works as senior researcher at the GGzE Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the Netherlands. Since 2008, he is director of a consultancy specialized in applied research in the justice system in Barcelona, Spain, and associated professor at the Catalonian Open University. He has worked as a scientific researcher in the TBS system in the Netherlands and in the juvenile justice system in Catalonia. His research focuses on risk/need assessment and risk management and he has translated several tools into Dutch and Spanish. He is co-author of the Decision-making In Abusive Relationships Interview (DIARI) and the SAPROF-Youth Version, a risk assessment tool for juvenile offenders that consists only of protective factors.

Ilvy Goossens is a doctoral student at Simon Fraser University (Forensic Psychology and Law track), Burnaby, British Columbia, and a Research Assistant at the Provincial Health Services Authority in Coquitlam, British Columbia. She has previously obtained a master’s degree in clinical psychology at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium), and in forensic psychology at Maastricht University (the Netherlands). She is a co-author of the Decision-making In Abusive Relationships Interview (DIARI).  She is currently involved in trauma-focused research with individuals with serious mental illness who are in conflict with the law. Her special research interests include victim and offender perspectives in interpersonal violence, and a focus on various aspects to wellbeing and safety in forensic psychiatric populations. 

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