A qualitative exploration of mechanisms of intimate partner violence reduction for zambian couples receiving the Common Elements Treatment Approach (CETA) intervention

Sarah M. Murray, Stephanie Skavenski Van Wyk, Kristina Metz, Saphira Munthali Mulemba, Mwamba M. Mwenge, Jeremy C Kane, Michelle Alto, Katherine E. Venturo-Conerly, Akash R. Wasil, Shoshanna L. Fine, Laura K. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract Rationale: Despite well-established associations between alcohol use, poor mental health, and intimate partner violence (IPV), limited attention has been given to how psychological and behavioral interventions might prevent or treat IPV in low- and middle-income countries. Objective: In a recent randomized controlled trial in Lusaka, Zambia, transdiagnostic cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy (the Common Elements Treatment Approach; CETA) demonstrated significant treatment effects on men's alcohol use and women's IPV victimization in couples in which hazardous alcohol use by the male and intimate partner violence against the female was reported. In this study, we sought to gain a more in-depth understanding of mechanisms of behavior change among CETA participants. Methods: We conducted 50 semi-structured in-depth interviews and 4 focus groups with a purposeful sample of adult men and women who received CETA between April and October 2018. Transcripts were analyzed using an inductive constant comparison approach by a team of US- and Zambia-based coders. Results: Participants described interrelated mechanisms of change, including the use of safety strategies to not only avoid or prevent conflict but also to control anger; reductions in alcohol use that directly and indirectly reduced conflict; and, positive changes in trust and understanding of one's self and their partner. Several overarching themes also emerged from the data: how gender norms shaped participants' understanding of violence reduction strategies; the role of household economics in cycles of alcohol and violence; and, deleterious and virtuous intercouple dynamics that could perpetuate or diminish violence. Conclusions: Results suggest important avenues for future research including the potential for combining CETA with poverty reduction or gender norms focused interventions and for incorporating cognitivebehavioral skills into community level interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113458
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Alcohol
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Mental health
  • Psychotherapy
  • Qualitative
  • Transdiagnostic
  • Zambia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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