Guided self-change: an evidence-based strategy to support substance-abusing offenders.

Author:Magaletta, Philip R.

Correctional administrators, managers and line staff have seen increasing numbers of offenders participating in and benefiting from diverse guided self-change processes (GSP). From a reentry perspective, this is welcome news. Each year, more than 600,000 state and federal offenders return to our communities, a number that will increase as new crime solutions are implemented. (1) Many of these offenders receive effective treatment services for substance-use disorders during incarceration. If they stay crime and substance free, they will require ongoing, recovery-based supports within their communities. It is not enough for these offenders to passively ignore or avoid antisocial activities and associates. Rather, they must actively seek and find pro-social activities and pro-social communities of support.

For substance-abusing offenders, the most frequently chosen approach to finding such communities is through the pro-social beliefs, practices and experiences woven together through a GSP. Although rates of drug use among state inmates before arrest remained stable between 1997 and 2004, the rate at which they participated in this approach to change grew by over 60,000. (2) In fact, research indicates this approach is the most frequently used method of change among substance-abusing offenders--before, during and after incarceration. The community-based empirical literature is robust with regard to the most frequently practiced approach, the 12-step approach--which is an interrelated set of practices, beliefs and experiences leading to recovery (3) and conceptualized as guided self-change processes. Here, the research yields three important findings:

* Studies examining blended treatment interventions (e.g., substance-abuse treatment services that combine 12-step practices, beliefs and experiences in the context of a treatment service delivery system) reported that, outside of prison, blended approaches are equally as effective as a singular treatment approach to reducing substance use and rearrest.

* Studies examining direct participation in a 12-step approach reveal that poorer substance-abuse treatment outcomes consistently relate to a lack of 12-step involvement after treatment. These studies suggest that frequent attendance at 12-step meetings is associated with decreases in substance use and that at least weekly participation is necessary to produce desired outcomes.

* Studies that examine mechanisms of influence, which are proximal to...

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