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In “Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment: A Review and Discussion for Corrections Professionals”, Dr. Harvey Milkman and Dr. Kenneth Wanberg explain what cognitive-behavioral therapy is and describe its principles.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on an assumption that the foundations for criminal activity are dysfunctional patterns of thinking.  By altering routine misinterpretations of life events, offenders can modify antisocial aspects of their personality and consequent behavior.

CBT in offender treatment targets the thoughts, choices, attitudes, and meaning systems that are associated with antisocial behavior and deviant lifestyles.  It uses a training approach to teach new skills in areas where offenders show deficits, such as interpersonal problem awareness, generating alternative solutions rather than reacting on first impulse, evaluating consequences, resisting peer pressure, opening up and listening to other perspectives, soliciting feedback, taking other persons’ well-being into account, and deciding on the most beneficial course of action.

The CBT therapist acts as a teacher or coach, and lessons are typically taught to groups in classroom settings.  The lessons may include group exercises involving role-play, rehearsal, intensive feedback, and homework assignments and generally follow a structured curriculum with detailed lesson plans.

CBT uses two basic approaches in bringing about change:  (1) restructuring of cognitive events and (2) social and interpersonal skills training.  The two approaches are built on two pathways of reinforcement:  (1) strengthening the thoughts that lead to positive behaviors and (2) strengthening behavior due to the positive consequence of that behavior.  The former has its roots in cognitive therapy, the latter in behavioral therapy.  Together they form the essential platform of CBT.

Source:  “Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment:  A Review and Discussion for Corrections Professionals,” Harvey Milkman, Ph.D. and Kenneth Wanberg, Th.D., Ph.D., May 2007, NIC Accession Number 021657.

List of Cognitive-Behavioral Programs