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The Role of Occupational Therapy with Domestic Violence Survivors

1 January 2010


There is an identifiable need for occupational therapists to be trained to work with domestic violence survivors. According to the American Medical Association (1992) at least 2 million women have experienced domestic abuse by their partners, which results in health care costs of approximately $44,393,700 annually. In comparison to violence against women by men, there is little research surrounding violence against men by women. One statistic from Oregon Counselling states that out of 100 domestic violence cases, 40 cases are of women committing violence against men. For same-gender relationships the rates of domestic violence are roughly the same as the rates of domestic violence against heterosexual women.

Johnston, Adams & Helfrich (2001) state, “it is likely that any occupational therapy practitioner who treats women will treat someone who is or was abused.” Domestic violence survivors have experienced a loss of empowerment and self-esteem. This loss may be seen in its impact on their ability to be successful with the occupations in their lives. While in abusive relationships “skills which may have been adaptive while in the abusive relationship, such as compliance, may not be adaptive if the woman chooses to leave the relationship” (Gleason, 1993). Occupational therapy intervention is instrumental in creating new roles, routines and a sense of self that was previously lost by facilitating adaptive skills.

What is the role of occupational therapy with domestic violence survivors?


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