Back to top

Dr. Lawrence’s study will evaluate the effectiveness of ACTV

CHICAGO — October 2020 — The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women has awarded a three-year, $450,000 grant to The Family Institute at Northwestern University to support Dr. Erika Lawrence’s research for domestic violence intervention therapy.

Intimate partner violence is highly prevalent in U.S. families and even mild and infrequent forms of physical partner violence can have severe consequences for individuals, couples and children exposed to violence. Despite widespread use and legal support, there is overwhelming evidence that traditional interventions do not yield statistically significant or clinically meaningful reductions in intimate partner violence.

This study will evaluate the effectiveness of ACTV compared with the “gold standard” Batterers Intervention Program (BIP) currently offered around the country. Dr. Lawrence codeveloped ACTV, an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy-based group intervention for court-mandated domestic violence offenders. “Research at The Family Institute is about creating and translating scientific, systemically informed knowledge about individuals, couples and families into the best clinical practice available,” said Anthony Chambers, Ph.D., ABPP, Chief Academic Officer and Director of the Center for Applied Psychological and Family Studies at Northwestern University. “This research epitomizes that vision and actualizes The Family Institute’s mission of healing individuals, couples and families from all walks of life.”

The success of this study will bring the U.S. one step closer to having its first empirically supported, court- mandated Batterers Intervention Program that truly reduces recidivism in a criminal justice setting and protects victims from abuse. Dr. Lawrence and her team will partner with Ramsey County, Minnesota Community Corrections, with whom they have collaborated on ACTV training and implementation since 2013.

Erika Lawrence, Ph.D. is the Director of Translational Science at The Family Institute at Northwestern University and is a professor and licensed clinical psychologist. She received her B.A. in psychology at Emory University, and conducted research under the direction of Professor K. Daniel O'Leary at SUNY Stony Brook. She went on to complete her M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology at UCLA under the mentorship of Professors Thomas Bradbury and Andrew Christensen, and her clinical psychology internship at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital. Her past academic positions include tenure-track and tenured professorships at the University of Iowa and the University of Arizona. Her work has been funded by the DOJ, NIMH, NICHD and the CDC.



Incorporated in 1969, The Family Institute at Northwestern University is committed to strengthening and healing families, couples, children and adults through the highest quality, relationship-based mental health services. As partners to see change, The Family Institute brings together research, education and clinical practice leading to growth for our clients, the next generation of therapists and the field of behavioral health.

The Family Institute conducts cutting-edge research to better understand mental health issues and treatment, operating two nationally renowned graduate programs through the Center for Applied Psychological and Family Studies at Northwestern University in Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy. For more information,

Media Contact: Crystal Reynolds, Director of Marketing