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Mindfulness Helps Control Anger and Violence in Men
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Mindfulness Helps Control Anger and Violence in Men

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Highlights:
  • Violence in close relationships is a global public health problem
  • Therapeutic programs need to be designed to help individuals who voluntarily seek help to reduce recurrent violence against partners
  • People who underwent cognitive-behavioral group therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy showed a strong drop in violent behavior

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed many restrictions on people's lives. The last few months have been challenging for people, with many losing their jobs and feeling uncertain about their future. This concern is especially true for people living in a violent relationship.

"For a lot of people, the shutdown has been an extreme situation with a lot of stress. Those of us who work with people on anger management has felt really concerned about what might be going on within the four walls of their homes," says Merete Berg Nesset, who is earning a doctorate on anger management, at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Nesset has worked with angry people who beat, yell, and threaten.

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"We know that financial difficulties, unemployment, and psychological challenges are linked to aggression and violence. The level of stress clearly increases further when parents also become responsible for teaching their children at home. Situations that are already difficult have escalated for a lot of people who have conflicts from before or a prior mental health problem because there are fewer opportunities to get away," says Nesset.

Study

The study shows that anger management using cognitive-behavioral group therapy and mindfulness-based stress management helps to control anger in men, who are in a relationship.
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The present study aimed to compare the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral group therapy (CBGT) vs. mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) group therapy in reducing violent behavior among individuals who are violent in intimate partnerships and who voluntarily seek help. The study included 125 men who had applied for anger management. Among these men, 60 percent had committed sexual violence against their partners, 85 percent had reported physical violence, and around 87 percent had a history of psychological or emotional violence towards their partners.

Participants were divided into two groups. One group received cognitive-behavioral group (CBGT) therapy using what is called the Brøset model. The other group participated in a stress management course based on mindfulness (MSBR).

Partners in both groups participated through several surveys conducted before, during and after treatment.

Results

The analysis was based on participant and partner- reported data. Both CBGT and MSBR groups showed significant improvement in men's behavior, with no reported case of demanded or threatened sex against partners. The rate of physical violence that resulted in harm to their partner had also dropped to ten percent

Psychological violence that includes threats and derogatory remarks also declined by 25 percent. But the drop-in rate of psychological violence was not as dramatic as drop-in other forms of violence. This is because it is difficult to address psychological issues and it takes a long time to experience feeling safe and secure emotionally.

"There was a high level of both sexual and physical violence before treatment began. It was more than we'd imagined beforehand. When we checked what the partners experienced, we got a slightly different picture of what was actually going on. We know that a lot of angry men hit their partners, but we were surprised that so many committed sexual assaults. At this point the agreement between the husband and partner was low - that is, the partner reported more cases than the man did," says Nesset.

"Unfortunately, about 25 percent of all killings in Norway are partner killings. Because domestic violence is a public health problem with major health consequences for those exposed to the violence, we found it unethical not to offer treatment. So what we studied was the effectiveness of two types of treatment. Both worked," says Nesset.

The first treatment was using mindfulness training called MBSR, that involved eight group sessions. The course was led by psychologist Nina Flor Thunold.

The second treatment used cognitive-behavioral group therapy, which consisted of 15 sessions. The program was developed at St. Olavs Hospital and is called the Brøset model.

The first phase of the therapy aimed to stop the violence. The next phase explores the patterns of violence and map situations that trigger violence. It also examines what thoughts and feelings arise and what actions are repeated.

"Some people who are violent are offended easily. During treatment, participants find out what makes them feel offended, what thoughts and feelings they should pay particular attention to, and we create action plans for how the they can handle negative emotions without using violence. A lot of the treatment is about understanding yourself," says Nesset.

"I didn't expect the decline to be so big. It's really promising that the treatment works," says Nesset.

Source: Medindia

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