A Critical Evaluation Of Cognitive Behavioral Programs Essays Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Psychology, Brain, Behavior, Sociology, Law, Client, Role, Development

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/10/15


Moral order and social order are critical components in the well-being of society. Cases of relapses into criminal behavior among released inmates (recidivism) are a primary concern among law enforcement agencies and governments. In practice, there are interventions, which work while others do not. Still, there are strategies, which produce mixed results. Cognitive behavioral approaches have proved to be quite effective in enhancing social, psychological and moral re-adjustments in delinquent people. In addition, programs that emphasize reasoning and moral teaching are equally effective. Studies show that the Integrated approaches that combine these methods account for effective interventions for clients, thus, reducing the rates of recidivism. Worthy to note is that compromise in the integrity of the designs and implementation of structured approach programs hampers their effectiveness. This paper identifies and gives a critical assessment of cognitive behavioral intervention strategies among involuntary clients in penitentiaries and other settings. There is the need for collaborated efforts among social workers and professionals in the correctional work for active rehabilitation.


Correctional facilities play a crucial role in the preservation of morals, law, and order in the society. These institutions require skills and empirically useful approaches in handling social and relational needs of the inmates to facilitate their reunion into society after their release. A critical consideration in rehabilitating prisoners is the methods of intervention that are effective in bringing positive change in the clients. Behavioral and cognitive programs play a crucial role in enhancing the rehabilitation of prisoners.

Cognitive behavioral programs

USA is the world’s leading country in the number of incarcerated citizens. By 2006, the numbers of adults under the supervision of parole, federal, local probation, and state authorities was over five million. The need for Evidence-Based Practices (EBP) was, for this reason, paramount in helping reduce subsequent re-arrests or reconvictions of inmates (recidivism) and financial challenges resulting from adult incarcerations. The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one example of an Evidence-Based Practice (Hansen, 2008). CBT proves to be one of the effective measures in the reduction of recidivism (Wilson, Bouffard & Mackenzie 2005; Hansen, 2008). A study by Wilson et al. established that CBT programs were equally or slightly more effective than those of vocational, educational and work programs (Wilson et al., 2005).


In his book Working with involuntary clients: A guide to practice (2nd ed.), Trotter elaborates different approaches to inmate rehabilitation. He groups them mainly into three, namely; the approaches that work, the approaches that sometimes work, and the strategies that do not work (Trotter, 2006).
Wilson et al. identifies another category of cognitive programs, which incorporate structured programs targeting group settings. Indeed, these type of approaches aim at cognitive restructurings such as modifying faulty perceptions and cognitive distortions. Deficit approaches tend to focus on functional Socio- psychological capabilities that a client evidently lacks. As a result, these methods aim to improve moral, social, behavioral and cognitive deficits in offenders. In this light, Wilson et al. identifies two primary deficit programs; Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) and Reasoning and Rehabilitation (R&R) programs. Specifically, the R&R program aims to strengthen cognitive deficits in areas such as critical reasoning and interpersonal problem-solving. In addition, it seeks to reinforce the self-control and social perspective taking among its clients (Wilson et al., 2005).
Essentially, CBT is an admixture of various therapies that contribute towards rehabilitating a convict. These treatments include social learning theory, behavioral, and cognitive therapy. Worthy to note is that these treatments emerged from experimental psychology (Hansen, 2008)
Cognitive therapies base their intervention on the premise that personality is a function of central values that one adopts from their environment during the formative stages of their lives. These values inform how they code, categorize and interpret phenomena. Thus, according to this view, people’s behaviors are primarily an offshoot of how they perceive their world. As such, a faulty cognition leads to anti-social tendencies and behaviors (Hansen, 2008)).
Hansen identifies other CBT approaches in correctional services. One of them is called Thinking for a Change (T4C). This approach incorporates problem-solving, cognitive restructuring, and social skills to improve the offender’s awareness and enhance interpersonal problem-solving skills. Another program is the Relapse Prevention Therapy (RPT) developed by Parks and Marllat. It is a maintenance program aimed at managing and preventing the relapse of substance addicts who have undergone treatment (Hansen, 2006). In addition, the Aggression Replacement Training (ART) is another CBT that seeks to modify the behavior of chronically aggressive people. The initial program targeted the youth but now involves the adults as well.

Types that are effective in bringing about change in involuntary clients

According to Trotter, workers handling involuntary clients play a dual role. He identifies these roles as surveillance / legalistic role and a problem-solving/therapeutic/helping role. In other words, they have a role in ensuring that their clients fulfill their legal requirements as stipulated by the legal authorities. At the same time, they should promote the well-being of their clients by ensuring that they meet their social needs and concerns in relation to their present circumstances (Trotter, 2006).
Trotter identified several approaches that proved to be effective in bringing about change. One of them is the Pro-social Modeling and Reinforcement approach. It involves the worker’s practice of simple courtesies such as being punctual, keeping appointments and promises to their clients. In addition, workers who demonstrate relationship skills tend to have positive outcomes for their clients. Ideally, these skills include the use of humor, empathy, self-disclosure and optimism as well as listening skills. A study by Don Andrews and Craig Dowden established that adequate modeling used by correctional staff in various situations significantly and strongly related to a significant reduction in repeats of offense by clients (Trotter, 2006).
Further, Collaborative Problem-Solving approach involves joint efforts between the client and the worker to identify and define the problem from the client’s perspective. Subsequently, it aims to seek to develop client-oriented goals and attainment strategies. Trotter confirmed the effectiveness of this approach in his study of Australian correctional facilities (Trotter, 2006).Trotter vouched for an integrated approach that combines client-centered healing processes as mentioned above (Trotter, 2006)


While the client-centered approaches play a crucial role in enhancing positive change, there are various shortfalls to them. For instance, according to the deficit plan approach, a person with criminal tendencies possibly lacks fundamental social, behavioral and moral competencies. As such, the worker comes in to help the client identify and chart out measures to reinforce these qualities. Hence, it is operationally vital for the helper to direct the healing process and not the client. Additionally, the validity of self-introspection of such clients is in question and compromises objectivity and reliability of the interventions (Hansen 2006)
Cognitive problems do not entirely cause criminal dispositions. It takes more than an individual to develop character and habits. For instance, the spiritual aspect of a person plays a significant role in influencing their choices. Certainly, if one’s religion allows them to use certain addictive drugs such as bhang, alcohol and cigarettes it is likely for the individual to indulge in these substances. Consequently, the need for more drugs can lead them to delinquent habits such as stealing. For this reason, it is crucial for therapists to give a multifaceted perspective to the cause and possible remedies for their clients to reduce relapses of imprisonment.
Deficit and distortion approaches involve elaborately developed structures of intervention. While the modules and sessions included may meet the needs of particular clients, they may not answer those of others. This kind of approach tends to categorize all criminals into a pre-designed program of intervention. The interventions should rather focus on the unique needs of an individual and give a client-focused intervention.


In sum, law enforcement agents and correctional officers play a fundamental role in the prevalence or reduction of recidivism. There is the need for integrated efforts among workers involved in correctional and rehabilitation activities in developing and implementing approaches that promote moral and social order in society.


Hansen, C. (2008). Cognitive-behavioral interventions: Where they come from and what they do. Fed. Probation, 72, 43.
National Institute of Justice. (2014). Recidivism. Retrieved January 27, 2015, from http://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/recidivism/Pages/welcome.aspx
Trotter, C. (2006). Working with involuntary clients: A guide to practice (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Corwin Press.
Wilson, D. B., Bouffard, L. A., & Mackenzie, D. L. (2005). A quantitative review of structured, group-oriented, cognitive-behavioral programs for offenders. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 32(2), 172-204.

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