Discovering Strengths and Competencies in Female Domestic Violence Survivors: An Application of Roberts' Continuum of the Duration and Severity of Woman Battering

Mo-Yee Lee, PhD


Brief Treat Crisis Interv 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


This paper describes a solution-focused approach for treating domestic violence female survivors and discusses the implications of Roberts' Continuum of Duration and Severity of Women Battering for therapists and researchers working within a solution-focused frame. Building on a strengths perspective, a solution-focused approach holds a person accountable for solutions instead of focusing on problems. The ultimate goal of the therapy is to provide a therapeutic context for domestic violence female survivors to rediscover and reconnect with their own resourcefulness in resisting, avoiding, escaping, and fighting against the abuse, develop a vision of a life free of violence, and empower women to re-experience their personal power in bringing positive changes to their lives.


Based on the data from a carefully designed study of 501 battered women, Dr. Roberts developed the Continuum of the Duration and Chronicity of Women Battering. The Continuum provides therapists with a useful tool for identifying and assessing lethality issues in treating battered women. For a detailed description of the five levels of the woman battering continuum-short term, intermediate, intermittent long term, chronic with a discernable pattern, and homicidal-see Ending Intimate Abuse: Practical Guidance and Survival Strategies (Roberts & Roberts, 2005). Such a relatively new classificatory scheme also echoes the concern of some helping professionals who recognize battered women as a heterogeneous group with diverse experiences unique to their own individual and social context (e.g., Dutton, 1996). Treatment based on one predominant vision of battered women's experience and what is best for them runs the danger of decontextualization, thereby reducing the effectiveness and appropriateness of treatment to the individual woman.

The Continuum implies a diversity of battered women's experience and their life situations. Such recognition has important implications for assessment, treatment, and research with this population. Besides assisting helping professionals to focus their attention on those women who are at a high risk for severe abuse so that appropriate services can be provided, such a continuum also captures the experience of those women who appear to be at the beginning trajectory of an abusive cycle (Roberts & Roberts, 2005). An understanding of their experience will have useful implications for early detection as well as early prevention. In other words, what may be helpful to protect a woman from an abusive cycle at its beginning stage so that the battering can be ended without being exacerbated both in its severity and chronicity.

This paper describes a solution-focused approach for treating female domestic violence survivors and discusses the implication of the Continuum to therapists and researchers working within a solution-focused frame. Solution-focused therapy is based on building on each person's hidden strengths and competencies, rather than using a deficit or pathology model. In individual and group treatment settings, such an approach focus's on what clients can do rather than on what they cannot do. The focus is on clients' successes in dealing with their domestic violence problems and how to notice and build on small attainable goals. The important first step to optimize the success of solution-focused treatment is based on the practitioner's ability to recognize and respect clients' strengths, sometimes more than clients respect themselves. This approach has been supported by numerous clinical observations on how clients discover partial and complete solutions more quickly if the focus is on their strengths, abilities, and accomplishments (Berg & Dolan, 2001). A solution-focused approach for the treatment of domestic violence is a relatively new approach developed in the late 1980s. Such an approach has been used for individual treatment for victims (Dolan, 1994), crisis intervention (Greene, Lee, Trask, & Rheinscheld, 2005), couple treatment (Johnson & Goldman, 1996; Lipchik, 1991; Lipchik & Kubicki, 1996), and group treatment for domestic violence offenders (Lee, Sebold, & Uken, 2003; Uken & Sebold, 1996) with encouraging outcomes.


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