A new study finds that specialized psychological programs designed to rehabilitate sexual and domestic violence offenders have led to significant reductions in reoffending, but the best results are achieved with consistent input from a qualified psychologist.
For the study, a research team led by the University of Kent in the U.K. reviewed 70 previous studies and the cases of 55,000 individual offenders from five countries (UK, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand) to determine whether specialized psychological offense treatments were linked to reductions in recidivism (the tendency for a convicted criminal to reoffend).
The research team evaluated three specialized treatments: sexual, domestic violence and general violence programs, with the first two comprising the majority of specialized psychological programs offered in correctional and community settings.
The findings show that, across all programs, offense-specific reoffending was 13.4 percent for treated individuals and 19.4 percent for untreated comparisons over an average follow up of 66 months.
Relative reductions in offense-specific reoffending were 32.6 percent for sexual offense programs; 36 percent for domestic violence programs; and 24.3 percent for general violence programs. All programs were also associated with significant reductions in non-offense specific reoffending.
However, overall, treatment effectiveness appeared to improve when programs received consistent hands-on input from a qualified registered psychologist and the facilitating staff members were given clinical supervision.
For sex offenders, specific group-based treatment, rather than mixed group and individual treatment, led to the greatest reductions in sexual reoffending as did treatment that focused specifically on reducing inappropriate sexual arousal. All sexual offense treatment in these studies was cognitive behavioral therapy.
“The results of this study are good news. They suggest that treatment can be effective; particularly if care and attention is paid to who delivers the treatment as well as how treatment is implemented,” said Professor Gannon, a chartered forensic psychologist and director of Kent’s Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology.
Amongst its recommendations, the study suggests that policy makers and offender program providers might optimize programs outcomes by providing qualified psychologists who are consistently present in hands-on treatment.
The findings also suggest that program providers might also want to consider methods for tightly controlling program implementation given that the study shows that single site treatments seem to fare better than multisite treatments.
The study, published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review, was led by Professor Theresa Gannon from the University of Kent.
Source: University of Kent