Achieving Change through Value-Based Behavior (ACTV)

Achieving Change through Value-Based Behavior (ACTV) seeks to reduce offender recidivism and domestic violence re-offenses while helping participants use respectful, adaptive and healthy behaviors in their relationships. ACTV is a 24 week program for men or women who have been court mandated to complete a Batterers Education Program following a domestic violence conviction. Each group session takes 90 minutes.

Begun in 2010, this program was adapted from an evidence-based behavior therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT; Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999). My dissertation served as pilot data (see Zarling, Lawrence, and Marchman, 2015). The curriculum was designed in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Corrections and District Departments of Correctional Services. The program guides participants in behavior change using the principles of ACT, and includes learning skills such as defining their own personal values, becoming aware of their emotions and thoughts, noticing the consequences of their behavior, and learning new ways to respond to emotions and thoughts. The facilitators work with the members in a collaborative and compassionate manner, modeling the supportive respective behavior they are trying to teach. They do not offer advice, engage in problem-solving or provide extensive direct instruction. Instead they help group members come to realizations on their own and develop intrinsic motivations to change. These new skills are taught through metaphors and in-session experiential exercises. Session content focuses on five categories: The Big Picture, Barriers to Change, Emotion Regulation Skills, Cognitive Skills and Behavioral Skills.

I conducted an evaluation of 3,696 men arrested for domestic assault in Iowa who were court-mandated to treatment from 2011-2013. This analysis showed that participants in ACTV had half the recidivism rates for domestic assault and two-thirds less violent charges than those who participated in treatment as usual (a combination of Duluth and CBT). In addition, ACTV participants who were re-arrested had significantly fewer charges than those in treatment as usual. The results held for both people who completed the ACTV program and those who left before completion. Anecdotal evidence also shows increased job satisfaction for facilitators as well.

Initial funding for the program came from a Violence Against Women Act grant from the Iowa Judicial Branch. Currently ACTV is funded through state appropriations. Additional funding sources are being sought for quality improvement and further evaluation.

Zarling, A., Lawrence, E., & Marchman, J. (2015). A randomized controlled trial of acceptance and commitment therapy for aggressive behavior. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 83(1), 199.

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