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Women’s experiences of a randomised controlled trial of a specialist psychological advocacy intervention following domestic violence: A nested qualitative study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0193077
Number of pages11
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
DateAccepted/In press - 5 Feb 2018
DatePublished (current) - 27 Nov 2018



Women’s experience of domestic violence and abuse (DVA) is associated with mental illness which may not be addressed by domestic violence advocacy. The study aimed to compare the experiences of women receiving a psychological intervention with women receiving usual advocacy in a randomized controlled trial (PATH: Psychological Advocacy Towards Healing), to illuminate the trial results by exploring women’s experiences of benefits and difficulties.


A qualitative study nested within the PATH trial, based in two DVA agencies in the UK. A purposive sample of thirty-one intervention and usual care participants were interviewed up to three interviews over a year. Thematic analysis was carried out, incorporating concepts from the Trans-Theoretical Model of change.


The PATH trial reports a clinically relevant improvement in mental health outcomes for women receiving the intervention compared to usual advocacy. The qualitative study reveals which elements of the intervention were beneficial or problematic, which outcomes were most meaningful and relevant to participants and highlights reasons for variations in adherence. Women valued the educational, psychological and emotional elements of the intervention, they felt safe to explore repressed emotions for the first time and experienced a reduction in self-blame, improved sense of identity and greater self-esteem. They also incorporated new skills and self-help techniques to enable sustainable change. Women receiving usual advocacy reported un-met needs for psychological and emotional support. Adherence was affected by women’s ‘psychological ‘readiness’ to engage, the competing demands of practical issues such as housing insecurity, legal proceedings or the availability of child care, and breaks in the continuity of professional care.


Continuity and regularity of sessions with a trained specialist worker was key to women’s recovery. Individual assessment of ‘readiness’ would optimise the timing of delivery to maximise adherence and benefit.

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