Saturday, February 20, 2016

Rehabilitating criminals with Cognitive Behavior Therapy

It was proposed in the 1960's the only way to rehabilitate a criminal was to change the way he thinks, which would lead to better behavior.  In The Criminal Personality, written in 1977, the authorities identified 52 "thinking errors".  For example: failure to consider injury to others, lack of trust and poor decision making.  Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is considered the most effective treatment to keep offenders from committing further crimes. CBT is a blend of cognitive theory and its focus on internal and its emphasis on external behaviors.  A critical element in CBT is the notion that criminals demonstrate errors in thinking. It teaches offenders to identify distortions in their thinking and understand to make positive changes in behavior they need to alter the way they think. Offenders may be taught problem-solving or coping skills.  This therapy had the greatest impact in lowering the  recurrence of criminal behavior in juveniles and adults.  In 1974, Sociologist Robert Martinson reviewed 231 studies that evaluated the impact of rehabilitation programs.  He found they had little impact.  The findings were reported by the media.  This led to the "get tough on crime" message in the U.S.  But in the decades that followed, Cognitive Behavior Therapy became the treatment with/and in decreasing the incidence of substance abuse and depression. One 2005 study found that CBT reduced the criminal's relapse into their previous behavior by 25%.  Some programs found reductions by more than 50%.  The treatment even helped high-risk offenders.  Behavioral therapy and psychotherapy show little evidence in treating criminals as effective as CBT.  CBT programs have been found to be 30% more effective than behavioral ones.  According to the National Institute of Corrections 2007 report, traditional psychotherapy is egocentric.  It helps individuals feel better about themselves, it helps individuals solve their personal problems, fulfill their inner goals and expectations.  This egocentric psychotherapy has failed to have significant impact on changing offenders' thinking, attitudes and behaviors. 

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