GP role in domestic violence counselling ‘often overlooked’

Matt Woodley

20/11/2019 2:25:18 PM

Research finds women experiencing domestic violence feel better supported, more confident and less depressed when counselled by trained GPs.

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The study found women whose doctors received specialist training to counsel those experiencing domestic violence felt more supported and less depressed.

The University of Melbourne study also found that undergoing a short training program can better equip GPs to respond appropriately to patients experiencing domestic violence.
Lead author Dr Jodie Valpied said even though primary care doctors are often the first or only point of contact for such patients, their role is often overlooked.
‘There has been limited research to help guide family doctors regarding the care they should offer women experiencing domestic violence,’ Dr Valpied said.
Researchers analysed data from a randomised controlled trial of 272 female domestic violence survivors aged 16–50 years attending 52 Australian primary care clinics.
Doctors in the intervention group participated in a training program designed to help them deliver a brief counselling intervention to women fearful of a partner, while those in the comparison group received standard intimate-partner violence information.
The study found that at six months women whose doctors received specialist training to counsel those experiencing domestic violence felt more supported and less depressed than comparison patients. Their confidence was higher than comparison patients at 12 months, prompting researchers to call for specialist domestic violence training for GPs.
Dr Elizabeth Hindmarsh, GP and Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Abuse and Violence network, agrees that GPs are often ‘left out’ and that they could be better supported to help women who have experienced domestic violence.
‘It’s a really important issue in our society and, although GPs can’t solve it all, it’s important that we do our part well,’ she told newsGP.
‘This study provides real evidence that GP intervention counselling of patients who have suffered intimate-partner violence can help to improve their depression and self-efficacy.’
Dr Hindmarsh added that even though domestic violence is prevalent in Australia, it does not tend to attract adequate funding, support and, in some cases, interest.
‘Management of domestic violence is part of the curriculum, but also it’s the sort of thing that some people find difficult and tend to avoid. So if you put on training for this, you don’t get a rush of people attending,’ she said.
‘We would also like further research in this area but it’s always been really hard to secure funding.
‘The most important thing is that GPs feel empowered to ask and to explore safety. That’s what is sometimes called the “first aid” of domestic violence and family abuse and violence.’
GPs interested in learning more about supporting patients who have experienced domestic or intimate-partner violence can access the RACGP’s White Book.
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