New treatment for violence in relationships

Linköping University is starting one of the world’s first internet-based treatments for people who have problems with aggression in their relationship. Using the internet it is possible to reach large numbers of people, and to catch those who are at risk at an early stage.

Violence in close relationships is a problem for society as a whole. In Sweden eight per cent of women and eleven per cent of men have been subject to physical violence in a close relationship during the past year. In addition to physical violence, psychological violence is a common problem.

“It’s easy to forget that violence is so much more than hitting someone. It also includes verbal abuse, threats and neglect,” says Gerhard Andersson, professor at Linköping University.

Public health problem

Violence in close relationships costs society roughly three billion Swedish crowns per year, according to estimates from 2006.

“It’s a public health problem,” says Dan Rosenqvist, psychologist at the clinic Alternativ till våld (Alternatives to violence) in Jönköping.

People who have experienced different types of violence in relationships often suffer from mental illness, especially depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. A previous study at Linköping University, led by Prof Andersson, showed that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), delivered online, was successful in helping people who have been exposed to violence.

The new project will test whether people who use violence on their partner can benefit from internet-delivered CBT. The IVIN study is part of a larger undertaking in the field of violence in close relationships, commissioned by the National Board of Health and Welfare. The study is aimed at men and women who have difficulty managing anger and aggression.

Problems of shame

Violence often arises in conflict situations, where people who resort to violence are not able to manage their anger. However the opportunities for these people to get care are insufficient, and many are hesitant to ask for help, which makes the problem worse.

  

“Society needs to work on various fronts, such as preventive work, direct treatment, but also by offering internet-based treatment. We feel that online treatment can solve some of the problems of shame that come with violence in close relationships, which means we can reach even more people,” says Mr Rosenqvist.

2014-02-20