Study Objective. This study aimed to better understand the strategies IPV survivors use to cope with specific PTSD symptoms through the following aims:
Aim 1: Characterize the type and combinations of strategies survivors use to cope with PTSD.
Aim 2. Test associations between use of certain strategies and individual- (e.g., substance use, relationship self-efficacy, experiences of abuse) and relational-level factors (e.g., social support).
Methods. Data were collected as a part of a larger study centrally focused on IPV, PTSD, and substance use among IPV-exposed women. 279 participants who reported recent experiences of IPV and use of a substance in the prior 3-months were recruited from two counties in New England for a baseline interview, 30 days of daily data collection, and a follow-up interview. The current study focuses only on data collected during the baseline and follow-up interviews. To assess strategies used to cope with PTSD symptoms, participants were asked during the follow-up interview, “In the daily phone surveys, you said you had experienced [individual PTSD symptom inserted]. What did you do to cope with this?”. To assess depression, PTSD symptomology, social support, substance use and relationship self-efficacy, quantitative measures were collected.
Results. This project was guided by a convergent mixed methods data-transformation design (Creswell & Clark, 2011). To address aim 1, qualitative data were thematically analyzed and categorized into meaningful themes. Across survivors, findings reveal an array of coping strategies to deal with PTSD symptoms (e.g., social support, withdrawal, substance use, religious/spiritual coping, reappraisal, thought suppression/emotional avoidance, deep breathing and relaxation, household activities, etc.). Across PTSD symptoms and symptom clusters findings suggest the emergence of distinct patterns of coping strategies across individuals depending on the type of PTSD symptom experienced. To address aim 2, themes derived during aim 1 were transformed into quantitative codes and merged with the quantitative data to test whether distinct patterns of coping strategies were associated with individual- and relational-level factors. Results of regression analyses will be discussed.
Conclusions and implications. Findings have important implications for research and practice. Mixed methods research on coping strategies for PTSD can aid in understanding the confluence of factors that contribute to victims’ utilization of putatively adaptive and maladaptive coping strategies to better meet their treatment needs. Findings have important implications for how researchers and practitioners understand the organic strategies IPV survivors are already using to cope with trauma.