Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Corrections in the US

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Cognitive behavioral therapy corrections in criminal justice aim at assisting offenders to discover and change their thought processes that resulted in their maladaptive behavior. CBT programs enable offenders to change their dysfunctional or distorted cognitions by teaching them new cognitions that involved structured learning designed to influence their cognitive processes positively (Allen & Simonsen, 1989). In the United States, criminals are subjected to various correctional methods after they have been proven guilty. The most common corrections involve punishment, supervision, and individuals on probation, parole, and imprisonment. This paper explores the cognitive behavioral therapy in correctional methods in the United States.

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Corrections in the United States

An imprisonment is a form of punishment where offenders are restrained the freedom of liberty by the government authority or by any person with authority (Krisberg, Marchionna, & Hartney, n.d.). Parole is the provisional release of a prisoner who in the case agreed to a set of conditions before the completion of his or maximum prison sentence period (Cole & Smith, 2010). Parole is far much different from commutation of punishment or amnesty as parolees still serve their sentences and can be returned to the prison if they violate the agreed conditions. In criminal law, probation is a period of close supervision of the offender as ordered by the court instead of the offender being imprisoned (Krisberg, Marchionna, & Hartney, n.d.). Probation is a testing period for the offenders as they face the threat of getting their way into the prison if they break the agreed rules.

Incarceration by a person acting with the incarceration authority may not necessarily imply being confined with bars and bolts in a place, but it may be an exercise that is done lawfully or unlawfully by use of force even in an open street. In the United States, parole, as provided by the US law, implies an actual confinement in a prison or a jail through the employment of the courts (Cole & Smith, 2010). The court specifies the duration viable for any prisoner to be eligible for parole. Probation in the United States takes various forms such as home detention, intensive probation, computer management, and GPS monitoring (Cole & Smith, 2010). These are the kinds of probation in the US considered to be highly intrusive and are mostly for the habitual offenders, higher-ranking gang members, sex criminals and the violent criminals.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Corrections

Cognitive behavioral therapy examines the cognitive behavior on the assumption that cognitive distortions and deficits characteristics are acquired and not intrinsic. Programs designed for the law breakers to stress on their accountability and attempt to make them learn, understand their choices and thinking processes that preceded their criminal behavior (McGowan & Deneen, 2011). Criminals get to self-monitor their thinking after which therapeutic techniques are applied to help them to identify the risks, deficient thinking and correct biased thinking patterns. Many of the CBT interventions use a set of structured techniques that aim at building and improving the offenders cognitive skills and restructure cognitions where their thinking is distorted or biased (Krisberg, Marchionna, & Hartney, n.d.). Acquiring the cognitive skills is a process that requires training.

One of the commonly notable characteristics in criminals is a distorted cognition that is self-justificatory, displacement of blames, misinterpretation of social values, schemas of entitlement and dominance, and deficiency in moral reasoning. Offenders with distorted thinking are likely to perceive benign situation such as threats and confuse their wants with needs (Cole & Smith, 2010). Offenders are predisposed to view undamaging remarks such as deliberately or disrespectful provocative. Criminal thinking in most cases is tied to victims stance with criminals thinking that they are unfairly treated, hated, and casts out of the society, and they believe that everyone is against them, and society doesnt want to give them an opportunity (Milkman & Wanberg, 2007). They fail to recognize their problem of antisocial behavior how has impacted to their difficulties. Such thinking patterns are often supported by the offenders antisocial subcultures obtained from prisons and streets.

Lipsey and Landenberger in their study of criminal offenders and the cognitive behavioral approach found out that high-risk behaviors do not reduce the effectiveness of the therapy. The more dangerous offenders are likely to be so much affected by the cognitive behavioral therapy compared to the less severe offenders. Cognitive behavioral therapy may be the self-help approach for treatment enabling that is more effective and typically engages resistant individuals to increase their participation and to benefit from it (Milkman & Wanberg, 2007). Therapy is a more efficient way of curbing criminals behavior when they receive, supervision, support, education, employment, mental health counseling, and training simultaneously.

CBT approach is currently used in many trademark programs more so rehabilitations therapies, replacement therapies, change thinking therapies, and reasoning therapies. The National Institute of Corrections recently made a comprehensive and thorough publication of a review of the CBT that provides fine details of these programs (Milkman & Wanberg, 2007). It is interesting to note that although Lipsey and Landenberger did a comprehensive review of all these programs, no an effective program reduces recidivism.

Cognitive behavioral therapy assumes that almost everyone becomes conscious of their behaviors and thoughts and make positive changes towards them. Mostly, many peoples thoughts are often as a result of their behaviors and experiences that are prompted and influenced by these thoughts. Moreover, ideas sometimes become more distorted and may fail to tell the reality accurately.

According to recent researches, a cognitive behavioral approach is effective with the violent and substance abuse offenders, adult and juvenile offenders, prisoners, parolees, and probationers (Myers & Olson, 2015). CBT is useful in many criminal justice institutions and communities as it addresses the problems related to the criminals behaviors. For example, offenders improve their social behaviors in most of the cognitive behavior programs thereby ending their problem solving and improving on their cognitive styles, moral reasoning, self-efficacy, impulse management, critical reasoning, and self-control.

Mark Lipsey examined the appropriateness of various intervention approaches to young criminals, and his review resolved diverse study results dated from 1958 to 2002 on the intervention programs, and policies (Myers & Olson, 2015). He grouped all the assessments into seven categories; discipline, surveillance, deterrence, multiple coordinated services, counseling, skill building and restorative programs.

When Lipsey compared all the effects related to these interventions, he found out that those that were based on deterrence and punishment increased the criminal recidivism. However, therapeutic approaches that were connected on counseling and skill building, and multiple services methods significantly impacted on the reduction of further criminals behavior. After examining the effectiveness of various therapeutic interventions through the comparison of skill building approaches and different counseling methods, he found out that there was more effectiveness in skill building strategies to reduce further criminal behaviors than any other form of interventions (Myers & Olson, 2015).

Cognitive behavioral therapy corrections help offenders rediscover themselves to change their thoughts that often lead to their unacceptable behaviors. Various programs CBT programs becomes more effective to offenders whether they are imprisoned, on probation or parole when they receive supervision, support, education, employment, mental health counseling, and training simultaneously for a change of their behaviors. Skill building appears to be a more practical approach to helping offenders reduce further crimes compared to the other approach of therapies.


Allen, H. E., & Simonsen, C. E. (1989). Corrections in America: An introduction. New York:


Cole, G. & Smith, C. (2010). The American system of criminal justice. Belmont, CA:

Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Myers, D. & Olson, J. (2015). Restorative Justice and Community Corrections. Criminal Justice

Policy Review, 26(1), 3-6.

Krisberg, B., Marchionna, S., & Hartney, C. American Corrections.

McGowan, Thelma Deneen. (2011). Identifying Interventions That Work in Juvenile Justice: An

Analysis of the Moral Kombat Program. East Tennessee State University

Milkman, H. & Wanberg, K. (2007). Cognitive-behavioral treatment. Washington, D.C.: U.S.

Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections.

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