Culturally Sensitive Intervention Essay

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This essay briefly identifies the major issues surrounding a specific form of batterer intervention program (BIP), namely Afrocentric or culturally sensitive intervention with African Americans. For the purposes of this discussion, Afrocentric and culturally sensitive interventions are those that acknowledge the intersection of gender and race, adopt a constructivist perspective in learning about the different cultural views of clients, and account for different cultural pathways regarding courtship and marriage. Importantly, culturally sensitive interventions do not sanction violence against women, but acknowledge that the cultural backgrounds of the participants may create different pathways to violence. Although culturally sensitive programs for batterers exist, two important issues have yet to be addressed: (1) a lack of any systematic evaluations of the models being used, comparing their effectiveness with the model that is being institutionalized through state standards, and (2) the adoption of state program standards without empirical evidence that the model being adopted works for minority batterers.

Batterer Intervention Programming Effectiveness

Recently, more rigorous evaluation studies of BIPs have indicated mixed success. Importantly, however, an issue inadequately addressed in the evaluation literature is the appropriateness of these programs for ethnic/ racial minorities. Although there is no empirical research investigating the differential effect of the standard cognitive-behavioral treatment program on outcomes for Caucasian and African American batterers, some authors have argued that the lack of cultural competence among treatment programs has a severe negative impact on African American participants. In brief, survey research has documented the absence of culturally sensitive intervention approaches among treatment providers nationally. This absence of culturally sensitive intervention approaches is a concern, given both the high rate of violence occurring in African American relationships and the high attrition rate among African American men in batterer treatment programs.

Few studies of BIPs have evaluated the effect of different types of intervention efforts on batterers of different ethnic/racial backgrounds. Consequently, the mixed findings on BIP effectiveness may be attributable either to (a) the fact that batterers are not a homogenous group or (b) the fact that minority batterers may have responded differently to the standardized intervention model being evaluated. Such conclusions seem plausible, as the limited data available on this issue suggest a possible need for a specialized response to African American men arrested, convicted, and sentenced to a BIP for domestic violence. Importantly, this should not be misconstrued as a suggestion that there is a lack of culturally sensitive BIPs available, as many culturally sensitive intervention programs for violent men have been created.

State Program Standards

States have legislated standards for treatment providers in an effort to create uniformity in BIPs. In fact, by January 2006, 43 states had instituted such standards. Among the many aspects of batterer intervention addressed by these standards is the formalizing of program structure and length. As a result, most treatment programs nationally, regardless of theoretical perspective, offer a feminist informed, cognitive behavioral, group treatment approach for batterers. In short, these programs incorporate a patriarchal analysis of male–female intimate relationships and attempt to help participants modify their beliefs about intimate relationships and develop new skills for nonviolent conflict resolution. The impact of this trend on culturally specialized programming is not entirely clear. The unintended consequence of this legislation for treatment programs seeking to create culturally sensitive approaches for batterers of color is that they must now seek to create such services within the constraints of current state guidelines. Specifically, treatment providers must figure out how to provide specialized, culturally sensitive intervention services to diverse groups of batterers, while, at the same time, adhering to state standards that set basic uniform guidelines.


  1. Almeida, R., Woods, R., Messineo, T., & Font, R. (1998). Cultural context model. In M. McGoldrick (Ed.), Re-visioning family therapy: Race, culture, and gender in clinical practice (pp. 404–432). New York: Guilford Press.
  2. Babcock, J. C., Green, C. E., & Robie, C. (2004). Does batterers’ treatment work? A meta-analytic review of domestic violence treatment. Clinical Psychology Review, 23, 1023–1053.
  3. Buttell, F., & Carney, M. (2006). A large sample evaluation of a court mandated batterer intervention program: Investigating differential program effect for AfricanAmerican and Caucasian men. Research on Social Work Practice, 16, 121–131.
  4. Holtzworth-Munroe, A., Meehan, J., Herron, K., Rehman, U., & Stuart, G. (2000). Testing the Holtzworth-Munroe & Stuart (1994) batterer typology. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 1000–1019.

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