Individual Versus Group Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Partner-Violent Men: A Preliminary Randomized Trial

Christopher M. Murphy, Christopher I. Eckhardt, Judith M. Clifford, Adam D. LaMotte, Laura A. Meis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


A randomized clinical trial tested the hypothesis that a flexible, case formulation–based, individual treatment approach integrating motivational interviewing strategies with cognitive-behavioral therapy (ICBT) is more efficacious than a standardized group cognitive-behavioral approach (GCBT) for perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV). Forty-two men presenting for services at a community domestic violence agency were randomized to receive 20 sessions of ICBT or a 20-week group cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) program. Participants and their relationship partners completed assessments of relationship abuse and relationship functioning at baseline and quarterly follow-ups for 1 year. Treatment uptake and session attendance were significantly higher in ICBT than GCBT. However, contrary to the study hypothesis, GCBT produced consistently equivalent or greater benefits than ICBT. Participant self-reports revealed significant reductions in abusive behavior and injuries across conditions with no differential benefits between conditions. Victim partner reports revealed more favorable outcomes for group treatment, including a statistically significant difference in psychological aggression, and differences exceeding a medium effect size for physical assault, emotional abuse, and partner relationship adjustment. In response to hypothetical relationship scenarios, GCBT was associated with greater reductions than ICBT (exceeding a medium effect) in articulated cognitive distortions and aggressive intentions. Treatment competence ratings suggest that flexible, individualized administration of CBT creates challenges in session agenda setting, homework implementation, and formal aspects of relationship skills training. Although caution is needed in generalizing findings from this small-scale trial, the results suggest that the mutual support and positive social influence available in group intervention may be particularly helpful for IPV perpetrators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2846-2868
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number15-16
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the staff of HopeWorks of Howard County, Maryland, for their support of our clinical research efforts and acknowledge the dedicated efforts of the following research assistants and project therapists: Theresa Schmitz, Fabio van der Merwe, Cynthia Eaves, Manu Singh Looney, Jeffrey Elliott, Tiffany Sim, Peter Musser, Christina Watlington, and Danielle Black. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (R21 MH64562) to the first author.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2017.


  • batterers
  • domestic violence
  • intervention/treatment
  • violent offenders

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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