Research Spotlight: Dr. Dawn Johnson

Dawn M. Johnson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology, has developed a treatment program for victims of intimate violence who seek safety in battered women shelters. The treatment, Helping to Overcome PTSD through Empowerment (HOPE) is a time-limited, cognitive-behavioral therapy focusing on stabilization, safety, and empowerment. Dr. Johnson has received funding from the National Institute of Mental Health to support two studies in the development and evaluation of HOPE. Initial findings suggest that residents of battered women’s shelters who receive HOPE are significantly less likely to re-abused after leaving shelter than residents who only received standard shelter services. Moreover, HOPE participants experienced less arousal and avoidance symptoms of PTSD, less depression, greater social support, and were more empowered relative to residents who did not receive HOPE.  Dr. Johnson is currently working on a NIMH-funded randomized clinical trial of an expanded version of HOPE that includes sessions after women leave shelter. Future research plans include modifying HOPE to address comorbid substance use problems and adapting HOPE for pregnant women receiving prenatal care in community-based obstetric clinics.