Development of a local accountability structure: Gender, violence, and treatment issues

Albert Richard Sciarappa (2000)

This dissertation considers an innovative program design for communication among the staff of a rape and assault organization. A series of eight meetings took place between September 1996 and June 1997, involving myself and the organization's director and staff. Explored during these meetings was the viability of developing a continuous communication structure that focused on challenging the prevailing ideas about male therapists' work with the female clients of the organization, particularly ideas around the impact of power and gender within the therapeutic relationship. This process is patterned after the Partnership Accountability Model (Hall, 1992) and is further informed by action research models, narrative therapy practices, and feminist views on violence and therapy. A central question is examined: How can men's psychotherapeutic work with women who have been affected by male violence become more accountable to and informed by women? I developed this research effort due to my own treatment concerns within clinical practice. This research serves multiple purposes: establishing a consultative process with a local organization, accessing and privileging the insights and special knowledge of agency workers, and utilizing this information in order to establish treatment guidelines for male therapists who work with women victimized by male violence. The research effort, furthermore, explores the emerging recognition that a context of misunderstanding exists in the psychological treatment of women who have been victimized by male violence. In this regard, it becomes important for male therapists to listen to the experiences of female clinicians and service providers who work with victimized women, so as to examine further their own therapeutic practices. Male therapists will hopefully be better able to confront prevailing assumptions and practices that may actually be inappropriate to the treatment of victims of assault, and they may be able to develop an enhanced awareness of the power and gender differences inherent in the treatment relationship. This knowledge can best be developed within an action research format linked with the development of a partnership accountability structure. This research effort involves engaging in a unique process (i.e., the consultative experience utilizing the partnership accountability model) as well as obtaining specific content (i.e., information from local experts). The dissertation examines three areas: the practical benefits of utilizing the partnership accountability model, an evaluation of the content obtained, and ways to expand the consultation model and disseminate the content to the field. In addition, the evaluation aspects of this program design are discussed.