Library Event: “An Interdisciplinary Approach to Empowering Survivors of Domestic Violence through Stress Reduction”


An Interdisciplinary Approach to Empowering Survivors of Domestic Violence through Stress Reduction
Drs. Mary Montminy-Danna and Lisa Zuccarelli
Monday, October 31, 2016
4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
McKillop Library


Drs. Mary Montminy-Danna and Lisa Zuccarelli’s pilot study of female survivors of intimate partner violence aimed to design an interdisciplinary model of stress reduction through the use of safe conversation, structured interviews and the use of a commercial biofeedback program. This approach is not typical of most domestic violence services, which usually provide counseling, advocacy and shelters. The opportunity to discuss with these women the amount and source of their stresses and their current coping mechanisms created an emotionally supportive environment for performing this study.

Biofeedback is used to train individuals to override the body’s stress responses, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate. Controlling these can result in restoring parasympathetic response, bringing calm to the body. By directing one’s mental activity through physical, visual and auditory stimulation, one can alter the potentially harmful physiological responses caused by chronic disturbances, such as pain, anxiety or other stressors. The autonomic system is controlled by hormones and neurotransmitters. Under chronic stress, humans over-secrete certain hormones, particularly cortisol, upsetting the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis. This can result in the shut-down of protective feedback mechanisms, creating altered metabolic states and a blunted immune response.

Salve Regina University, in line with its Mission, supports research that focuses on creating a world that is merciful, just and harmonious through its Antone Award for Academic Excellence: Special Project Award.


Mary Montminy-Dana, Ph.D., associate professor of social work, receved her B.A. in political science, from University of Massachusetts Boston, her M.S. in counseling from Northeastern University and M.S.W from Boston University. Montminy-Dana completed her Ph.D. in social work at Boston College.

Lisa Zuccarelli, Ph.D., associate professor of biology and biomedical Sciences, received her B.A. in biology and chemistry from Albertus Magnus College, her M.S. in physiology and neurobiology from New York University, and her Ph.D. in biology from New York University.

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