JUN 12 - 14  

Treating Intimate Partner Violence: A Solution-Focused Approach

Over the last six years, the workshop facilitators have been engaged in applied research on intimate partner violence (IPV). This has involved collaborations with organizations who provide interventions for partner violent individuals in a range of different settings (e.g., prison, community and probation). Part of these collaborations have included introducing a solution focused approach in the treatment of IPV men and women, in both group settings and on a one-to-one basis. We have developed the intervention programmes, provided training and supervision for facilitators delivering the programmes and undertaken some preliminary evaluations which show promise, particularly in relation to engagement and programme completion rates. Originating from the work by Lee, Sebold and Uken (2004) in their pioneering work applying a solution-focused approach to the treatment of IPV offenders in the US, the programmes that we have developed are the first of their kind in the UK. 


The workshop will commence with a discussion of how offenders’ motivation to change can be conceptualised in a way that is conducive to the change process. Offenders’ motivation to change is typically regarded as a treatment requirement for offending behaviour programmes, which means treatment is withheld from many offenders who are in need of it. From a solution-focused perspective, motivation is regarded as a treatment target. McMurran and Ward (2010) have argued that we need to interpret offenders’ motivation differently and this will be explored and debated in the workshop.

We will be discussing with candidates the theory behind the solution-focused approach and how it differs from typical offence-focused approaches. We will look at the evidence base for applying a solution-focused approach to IPV programmes and what programmes ‘look like’ in practice, along with the requirements of skills of facilitators, and how these differ from the skills of facilitators of offence-focused programmes. 

In order for work shop candidates to be familiar with the 10 solution focused principles we will be using role-play to explore how the 10 principles ‘play out’ in practice. We as workshop facilitators will model the solution-focused approach where required, to assist candidates’ learning of how to use the approach. We will then observe and interject as candidates undertake exercises so that they are able to make the 10 principles relevant and ‘concrete’.

Workshop candidates also will be using role-play to practice the five different types of solution-focused questions. Again, we as work shop facilitators will model these questions, so that candidates can see how the questions are used in practice. Candidates will be asked to consider the different ways in which offenders respond to treatment – in particular they will be asked to consider the most challenging of offenders – the ‘worst you can think of’ from a facilitator’s point of view. We will then be putting the solution-focused questions to the test, by exploring how the candidates as ‘facilitators’ can use their own personal strengths and skills, to pose these questions in a way that promotes engagement and change, even among the most challenging of offenders.

Learning Objectives:

Have reconsidered offenders’ motivation to change

Understand the rationale for applying a solution-focused approach to treating IPV offenders

Be familiar with the 10 Principles of the solution-focused approach

Be familiar with, and have practiced, the five types of solution-focused questions among individuals with differing attitudes towards treatment and change


Dr Emma Holdsworth is a lecturer in forensic psychology at Coventry University. Her research and area of expertise is in offender and facilitator engagement in offending behaviour programmes.

Dr Kate Walker is a Research Associate at the Faculty Research Centre in Psychology, Behaviour, and Achievement at Coventry University. Kate’s area of research and expertise is the desistance from intimate partner violence and the behavioural changes associated with this process.

Prof Erica Bowen is Professor of Prevention of Violence and Abuse at the National Centre for the Study and Prevention of Violence and Abuse, University of Worcester. Her research interests span the development and evaluation of primary and tertiary interventions for preventing intimate partner violence in adult and adolescent populations.‚Äč

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