Program Descriptions

California: Addressing Effective Batterer Intervention Programs on Three Fronts

First Front-CSAC

In early 2017, Assembly Bill 372 was introduced in California to explore the use of alternative batterer intervention programming (BIPs).  Under current law, the court is required to order a 52-week BIP for persons who meet the sentencing mandates for specified domestic violence crimes (FC 6211/ PC 1203.097). The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) oversees the pilot project of six participating counties.  The counties are provided the flexibility to modify the 52-week requirement to a lesser time, based on a risk and needs assessment.  All counties chose the Ontario Domestic Abuse Risk Assessment (ODARA), but general risk assessments varied among the counties with four different tools used to measure general recidivism.

The pilot project was introduced into law (PC 1203.099) in July 2019 with a sunset date of July 1, 2022 (although the deadline was extended for another year due to pandemic restrictions). Under the new code, the BIP’s were to have components which are evidence-based or promising practices and had to use manualized curriculum.  Four curriculums were chosen to meet this requirement.  The counties were required to collect offender demographic information, criminal history, risk and needs assessment levels and whether the offender completed the program as well as recidivism six months after completion. All information was to be submitted annually to the Legislature (CSAC) for further analysis.

The first-year report provided the framework for measuring recidivism and the program curriculum’s which were chosen by the participating counties.  Options included a 52-week, 26-week, and 16-week curriculum framework.

The second-year report reflected enhanced data collection and some recidivism reports. At this point many of the counties had returned to full programming after pandemic restrictions, so future reports should be more uniform in data collection.

Second Front-CAO

While this pilot project has been underway, the California Auditor’s Office (CAO) conducted a review of five other counties, not connected to the AB372 Pilot Project.  In California, the county probation departments are tasked with the certification and compliance review of the BIP’s in their counties.  The auditor’s report was released in October 2022 and found that the probation departments they evaluated were found to “not adequately hold offenders accountable to the conditions of their probation, including that they complete the required batterer intervention program”.  Various recommendations were submitted by the CAO, including the transfer of the certification/review process to the Department of Justice instead of the county probation departments.

Third Front-CPOC

Fortunately, during the past six years, the California Probation Chief’s Association (CPOC) training division and Advisory Committee has been developing and providing domestic violence specific trainings to address the various issues facing county probation officers who supervise domestic violence offenders.  In 2020, during the pandemic, they offered a newly designed 2-day DV Core training for officers assigned to DV caseloads.  The course was offered virtually twice yearly (2020, 2021, 2022 Spring) and in the Fall of 2022, it was finally offered in-person. The officers have given the course high marks for providing the training they need to competently supervise DV offenders, work effectively with victims, and understand the role of BIP’s in a coordinated community response model.

Concurrently, the newly designed “BIP Best Practices” course was offered twice in the Fall of 2022 to resoundingly positive reviews by officers! The timeliness and necessity of this training was confirmed by the October Auditor’s report and CPOC hopes to expand it’s offerings of this training in the coming year.

Final Thoughts

While still a work in progress, overall, California is working to reduce the levels of intimate partner violence thru more research-based supervision efforts and requiring BIP’s to use evidence-based materials and promising practices.  With targeted data collection, and increased trainings, it is anticipated that California will see more positive impact from effective batterer intervention programs over the next few years.

Short Video of Men’s Perpetrator Group

Someone sent me a 15-minute video depicting part of a men’s perpetrator group meeting.  It’s one of the better videos I’ve seen, in terms of both the production values and how well it represents a typical group session.  The men, I think, do a good job of supporting one another but also challenging one another, and they are treated with respect by the group facilitator.  Your impressions?

To watch the video, click here:  Convicted Abusers Reflect on Their Violent Behavior – YouTube

EMAP: Emotionally Intelligent Mindful Acceptance-Based Program

Previously titled, Emotionally Intelligent Batterer Intervention, EMAP is a comprehensive, trauma-informed treatment program for intimate partner violence. With a strong emphasis on compassion, curiosity, and accountability, EMAP promotes self-acceptance, mindfulness skills, and impulse control.  This participant workbook can be adapted for all levels of care, from 24 to 52 week programs. For female group treatment, use Mindful Workbook for Women, and anger management group treatment, use  Emotionally Intelligent Anger Management. For more information on program implementation and bulk purchase orders, go to

Mindful Workbook for Women

Mindful Workbook for Women

Mindful Workbook for Women is an acceptance-based, cognitive behavioral participant workbook adapted from the Emotionally Intelligent Batterer Intervention program. This comprehensive treatment manual is also a self-help guide for high-conflict couples. Research shows that shame is highly correlated with domestic violence. Many individuals enter treatment overwhelmed and defeated by shame. With a strong emphasis on compassion, curiosity, and accountability, Mindful Workbook for Women teaches self-acceptance, empathy, and impulse control. Accountability is a tool used to strengthen self-esteem and regulate emotions. Given that the vast majority of domestic abusers suffer from a history of trauma, Mindful Workbook for Women is a trauma-informed treatment program. Participants learn to identify and override harmful thinking patterns while healing old wounds. Individuals become vulnerable, transparent, and authentic as they develop an internal locus of control through powerful cognitive restructuring techniques. Readers express feeling grounded and empowered as they learn to slow down through mindfulness training. Mindful Workbook for Women promotes healthy boundaries, assertiveness skills, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, empathy, and responsible parenting throughout the program.This workbook can be adapted for domestic violence treatment programs ranging in length from 16 to 48 weeks. For male or co-ed groups please see Emotionally Intelligent Batterer Intervention.  For more information on program implementation visit



Emotionally Intelligent Batterer Intervention

Emotionally Intelligent Batterer Intervention is a comprehensive participant workbook for domestic violence groups. This cognitive behavioral treatment manual is also a self-help guide for high-conflict couples. Research shows that shame is highly correlated with domestic violence. Many individuals enter treatment overwhelmed and defeated by shame. With a strong emphasis on compassion, curiosity, and accountability, Emotionally Intelligent Batterer Intervention teaches self-acceptance, empathy, and impulse control. Accountability is a tool used to strengthen self-esteem and regulate emotions. Given that the vast majority of domestic abusers suffer from a history of trauma, Emotionally Intelligent Batterer Intervention is a trauma-informed treatment program. Participants learn to identify and override harmful thinking patterns while healing old wounds. Individuals become vulnerable, transparent, and authentic as they develop an internal locus of control through powerful cognitive restructuring techniques. Readers express feeling grounded and empowered as they learn to slow down through mindfulness training. Emotionally Intelligent Batterer Intervention promotes healthy boundaries, assertiveness skills, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, empathy, and responsible parenting throughout the program. Emotionally Intelligent Batterer Intervention exceeds the standard level of care for domestic violence treatment programs ranging from 16 to 52 weeks in length. For more information on program implementation visit


Alternative Behavior Choices Batterer Intervention Program

The evidence-based Alternative Behavior Choices group curriculum is appropriate for both voluntary and court-mandated individuals, and meets the requirements of California PC 1203.097 for batterer intervention programs. The curriculum can easily be adapted to a 16-week or 32-week format.  Topics include:  The nature of violence, emotional management, gender roles, socialization, power and control, the impact of domestic violence on children, and communication and conflict resolution skills.

A review of the empirical evidence upon which it was based, can be found at:

To order the workbook, go to and click on the link at the bottom of the page, or go directly to: ABC.MarketingFlier

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.

For more information, email me at





The STOP Program: For Women Who Abuse

It used to be that, when we trained mental health professionals, probation officers, victims’ programs, attorneys, and correctional officers all over the world, we had to convince people there was such a thing as female domestic violence.

But over the past decade, the landscape has shifted—and instead we hear pleas everywhere for a quality treatment program for women who abuse that is specifically targeted to women’s issues.

So, after years of pilot group testing, integrating rapidly emerging new research trends, and borrowing from the tremendous success of “The STOP Program for Men” (now in its Third Edition, published by Norton in 2013), this new treatment program was hatched: “The STOP Program: For Women Who Abuse” (Norton, 2016), focusing on innovative strategies for women who abuse their partners.

Like the men’s manual, this new program integrates contemporary interventions and client-centered guidelines to successfully treat domestic violence offenders—who happen to be female.

This program is timed to address the rapidly increasing awareness of female domestic violence and need for quality treatment services. Developed and field-tested for over twenty-five years among military and civilian populations internationally, this program offers therapists, social workers, and other counselors a new level of sound, psychologically-based interventions that actually reach the very women who often seem so unapproachable in a treatment setting.

Presented in a 26-week or 52-week psychoeducational format, “The STOP Program: For Women Who Abuse” is packed with updated skills, training exercises, articles, video clips, handouts, homework, and other resources–that push participants to examine the complex roles of trauma, emotional dysregulation, self-esteem deficits, and history of personal victimization in their relationship problems. And the program gives them new tools to manage these unique issues.

This manual includes many of the same sessions as the original STOP Program for men, with appropriate changes in pronouns, vignettes, and examples. We also have developed and integrated new material specifically dealing with issues that contemporary research and our clinical experience indicate are especially relevant for female offenders: victimization (and rationalization) issues, assertiveness vs. aggression issues, shame, grief and loss, parenting and co-parenting, boundary violations, emotional self-management and dysregulation issues, jealousy, self-esteem issues, gender rules and gender roles, and need for social support.

We are offering training workshops in this new model throughout the world. COME JOIN US IN OCT 2016 FOR THE TWO-DAY “STOP PROGRAM: FOR WOMEN WHO ABUSE” CONFERENCE IN SAN DIEGO. For more info, go to

And if any of you are doing similar work, please let us know so we can all share and learn.

David B. Wexler, Ph.D.

The Needs ABC Model – Supportive Challenging & Responsibility-Taking

There are strong reasons why men who batter would be resistant to treatment through group therapy.  Domestic violence involving physical injury is legally defined as a punishable behavior.  Because many batterers are implicitly required to participate in treatment groups through their involvement with the legal system, group work may be seen by them as a form of punishment.  Jenkins (1990) posits that men who batter externalize responsibility and therefore minimize the importance of treatment.  Indeed, batterers frequently hold their partners accountable for “provoking” the violence and are often puzzled as to why their partners are not also in treatment.  Thorne Finch (1992), in discussing the social construction of masculinity, suggests that society has so legitimized violence against women that batterers might perceive treatment groups as ludicrous.  Gondolf (1993) and Star (1983) describe a consistent profile of batterers as men with low self-esteem and insufficient knowledge of social skills; feelings of inadequacy might cause these men to fear exposure in a group setting. Many batterers request individual treatment, reflecting this anxiety.

Further, writers generalize that many men perceive group work in a negative way.  Sternbach (1990) writes that long standing patriarchal constructs of masculine autonomy and competition have traditionally made disclosure, emotional expression and vulnerability among men in a group difficult.  Strauss and Gelles (1992) in their research also point to autonomy and control as important aspects of men’s modus vivendi; group work challenges these precepts.  Goldberg Wood and Middleman (1992) describe the resistance to changing one’s world view as a constant struggle for men in treatment groups.  World view refers to one’s perception of self in relation to others and one’s meaning in society; it is one’s personal philosophy, and it mandates one’s behavior.

A logical progression from the above notions is that many men who batter perceive entry into a treatment group as: 1) punishment to be either avoided or stoically endured; 2) a threat to their masculine identity and world view, which may include having a dominant role in a relationship or family; and 3) an attack on their already diminished capacity for self-worth.  It could be imagined that batterers contemplating entry into a treatment group stand at a cross roads. On one side lies the desire for a “second chance” through learning new ways to behave, but on the other side lies a vision of being mortified in the presence of a group of men through coerced humiliating admissions of failure and inadequacy.

Because the consequences of domestic violence are so serious, very often brutal, and sometimes irreparable, treatment for batterers requires an environment where clients feel reassured enough to talk casually but candidly about themselves.  Effective treatment engages these men in non-defensive conversations about their behaviors and life experience.  The Needs ABC Model creates and maintains an environment in which men and women can consider more productive problem-solving options.


S.A.F.E. Counseling Program, Inc.

John Anthony Bochnowicz, SAFE Director, entered the field of DV counseling for victims and perpetrators in 1982 in Kings Beach, California. SAFE was founded in 1994, first named Supportive Alliances for Family Empowerment (SAFE). SAFE’s office is located in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. Serving court referred and self-referred men, women and families in the Greater Philadelphia Area – primarily Bucks County – 40 min north of Philadelphia and 2 hours south of New York. Since 1994 SAFE has been affiliated with the Peace Center, a non-profit peace education and violence prevention organization in Langhorne.


SAFE is a BIP provider for male and female offenders and victims in gender specific groups. SAFE’s services are a part of a coordinated community response to IPV. Recently implemented local standards strictly and explicitly prohibit providers of DV offender programs from reaching out to participants’ victims. SAFE holds the controversial position that is confirmed by recent social sciences and neuroscience research, that there are characteristics that parties in conflict share in common. SAFE has narrowed these down to 10 core areas in common for DV partners. Establishing a secure relationship with the facilitator is central in the intervention, along with using motivational interviewing as an approach to enroll the clients into their treatment. SAFE employs CBT Techniques to challenge and reframe client’s beliefs, biases and cognitive distortions and teaches self-awareness and self-regulation as the basis of safe practices to build the client’s ability to experience and express empathy, genuine interest, and insight into the emotional world of others. SAFE teaches an emotional healing process, and uses Gestalt Therapy Principles of being in the present to facilitate attunement and synchronicity with each group participant during each session.


SAFE has the experience and unique intervention model designed for work with the entire family, and with victims and perpetrators since 1982. SAFE’s intervention model is trauma-informed, resilience-focused, strength-based and client-centered. The emphasis in SAFE’s intervention is on the experiential involvement of each client over didactic instruction, by teaching a set of tools and a specific process to work through whenever an incident or trauma is experienced. The client is walked through this process repeatedly every week to facilitate the development of new neural pathways. The clients are conditioned to have new emotional and behavioral responses to their shames and fears by bringing Love into their lives to alleviate their emotional pain in the form of giving themselves R.U.A.C.A.T. (Respect, Understanding, Acceptance, Caring, Appreciation, and Trust). The repetition as a way of learning new behavior is supported by Dr. Daniel Sonkin’s work with Secure Base Priming. The importance of learning how to give love to oneself as a way of stopping violence is supported by Erin Pizzey’s talk in the Toronto Symposium of 2014. The clients also receive a written text of the course along with weekly reading and homework assignments with exercises that can be personalized. SAFE’s Intervention rationale and approach are consistent with CDC’s Connecting the Dots Study; Attachment Theory; Trauma-Informed Practices and Care; Resilience and Strength Based approaches to healing and behavior transformation; underpinnings of Motivational Interviewing; ACEs study findings and recommendations; neuroscience and social sciences intersections on best approaches to teach empathy, motivate change and transform harmful behavior to others and self; recent social sciences research outlining the risk factors for perpetrating IPV, the psychological and developmental characteristics of the perpetrators, and the categories and dynamics of IPV incidents.