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Psychosocial approaches to violence and aggression: contextually anchored and trauma-informed interventions

  • Deborah Horowitz (a1), Margaret Guyer (a2) (a3) (a4) and Kathy Sanders (a5) (a6)

Abstract

Psychosocial interventions are part of the complex understanding and treatment of violent behavior in our state mental health hospitals. A comprehensive assessment of violence and aggression includes attention to all 3 domains of prevention and assessment (primary-institutional, secondary-structural, and tertiary-direct). Trauma experiences and their consequences may include behavioral violence and aggression. The authors’ premise is that trauma is a universal component in the individual assessment of violent behavior. Therapeutic interventions must include a trauma-informed formulation to be effective. Organizational commitment to trauma-informed, person-centered, recovery-oriented (TPR) care is crucial to the efficacy of any of the interventions discussed. Thus, the dynamic nature of the individual, interpersonal, environmental, and cultural factors associated with the daily operations of the inpatient unit need to be assessed through the lens of primary and secondary violence prevention, building on the recognition that the majority of persons served and staff have significant trauma histories. Once a compassionate, respectful, empathic, and empowering approach is embraced by leadership and staff, the work with individuals can proceed more effectively. Interventions used include a variety of cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, and somatosensory therapies. These interventions, when effectively applied, result in more self-esteem, self-mastery, self-control for the person served, and diminished behavioral violence.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Kathy Sanders, Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, 25 Staniford Street, Boston, MA 02114, USA. (E-mail: kathy.sanders@massmail.state.ma.us)

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