Help Seeking for Alcohol Dependence by Women with PTSD and a History of Intimate Partner Violence

Tuesday, 14 July 2009: 8:50 AM

Deanna L. Mulvihill, RN, BScNEd, MSc, PhD1
Marilyn Ford-Gilboe, RN, PhD2
Helene Berman, RN, PhD2
Rick Csiernik, MSW, PhD, RSW3
Cheryl Forchuk, RN, PhD4
1School of Nursing, University of Western Ontario, Coquitlam, BC, Canada
2School of Nursing, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada
3School of Social Work, Kings College, London, ON, Canada
4School of Nursing, University of Western Ontario/Lawson Health Research Institute, London, ON, Canada

Learning Objective 1: Gain an understanding of the experience of women with PTSD and a history of intimate partner violence who seek help for alcohol dependence.

Learning Objective 2: Be able to describe the role that nurses can do to help women stay connected to services in their community.


Women who have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) are at greater risk for physical and mental health problems including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol dependency. On their own IPV, PTSD and alcohol dependency result in significant personal, social and economic cost and the impact of all three may compound these costs. Researchers have reported that women with these experiences are more difficult to treat, many do not access treatment and, those who do, frequently do not stay because of difficulty maintaining helping relationships. However, these women’s' perspectives have not previously been studied. The purpose of this study is to describe the experience of seeking help for alcohol dependence by women with PTSD and a history of IPV in the context in which it occurs. .

Methods: An intersubjective ethnographic study using hermeneutic dialogue was utilized during participant observation, in-depth interviews and focus groups. An ecological framework was utilized to focus on the interaction between the counselors and the staff to understand this relationships and the context in which it occurs N/A


The women in this study were very active help seekers. They encountered many gaps in continuity of care including discharge because of relapse. Although the treatment center was a warm, healing and spiritual place the women left the center without treatment for their trauma needs and many without any referral to address these outstanding issues.


Women with alcohol dependence and PTSD with a history of IPV want help however the providers in the health and social services do not always recognize their calls for help or their symptoms of distress. Recommendations are made for the treatment centers become trauma-informed. Nurses can play a key role in the education of the treatment team and in a case management system to address continuity of care.