This is the 6th of a 12 part series on Evidence Based Principles. Subscribe to our blog and get the series delivered right to your inbox.
Principle 3b: Collaborate on a Treatment Plan
Consider what it is like to be an offender who has been in multiple incarceration and treatment environments. In most cases, the intake process starts with a barrage of questions and then someone tells you what your problems are, what treatment is required and the total of the monthly fees required to keep you out of jail. The entire first few days is largely out of your control and your opinion is rarely asked, much less actually valued. Worse, it feels like your identity is summarized as a set of problems. That is the way you’ve felt for a long time, but it is disconcerting for a professional to reinforce the idea.
Conversely, imagine expecting the above experience and instead being pleasantly surprised when the treatment plan process begins with, “Let’s begin with what you value most; what is most important to you.” This process changes the entire interaction, the attitude and even the environment immediately, doesn’t it? Instead of beginning a “treatment plan” that is based on a history of failure and critically poor choices, you get defined by what is important to you and who you want to become. You get defined by potential rather than problems. Feeling more motivated already? That is the idea.
- Principle 1a: Build the therapeutic relationship – When the treatment process begins by looking at the future rather than the past and investigating values rather than failures, the sense of partnership and collaboration is ignited out of the gate.
Principle 2: Enhance Intrinsic Motivation – Remember the idea that intrinsic motivation is “pulled” from a person rather than “pushed” upon them? By exposing the client’s personal values rather than imposing ours, change talk begins. Also, tapping into motivation FOR something rather than AGAINST something is more energizing.
Principle 6: Engage Ongoing Support In Natural Communities – If you listen closely, you will hear the client identifying what community relationships/resources he or she wants to improve. Personal values will almost always include some type of community relationship (e.g., be a better father, start my own business, help others). Even when a stated personal value is not explicitly related to the community, there is the implication of the need for some type of community support (e.g., sobriety, religion, stability).
The key to creating a value-based treatment plan is to help the client understand that values are not simply a cognitive construct but rather actions and behaviors. True values always manifest in behavior. Thinking about being a better father does not really make it a value. Talking about being a better father doesn’t either. Taking action to spend more time with your child, including remaining in the community to ensure that as an option, is reflective of a true value.
Lastly, we are not suggesting that criminogenic needs do not need to be addressed. Quite the opposite. Once personal values are defined, identifying what is currently “getting in the way” of living those values is a natural next step.
“What has been your primary obstacle to being a better parent?”
“What needs to change in order for you to be able to truly pursue a life reflective of that value?”
“How can I help you move closer to being a person that demonstrates that being a better parent is your top priority?”
It is not magic, but if you typically start with problems and experience lots of resistance, it may feel that way.
- Start with Values: Identifying what you do want is more motivating than identifying what you do not want.
Focus on Actions: Every step in the treatment plan needs to be translated to action. We actually can refer to them as “action plans” for that reason.
Easy Does It: Offenders have felt like a failure for a long time and often do not believe that they can change. Make the first action steps so easy that they cannot fail. Success breeds success.
In our next blog in this series, we will address Principle 4, Skill Train with Directed Practice. Subscribe to our blog and get the series delivered right to your inbox.
This a 12 part series. Here are all 12 blogs in the series:
- An Introduction to Evidence Based Principles (EBP)
- EBP: Building the Therapeutic Relationship
- Community Corrections Interventions Must Begin with Assessment
- To Be or Not to Be: Framing Offender Motivation
- EBP: How Good is Your Aim?
- Discovering Values in Collaboration
- Practice Makes...Habit
- Structure & Accountability Still Matter!
- Catch Them Being Good!
- It Takes a Community to Transition an Offender
- What Works Anyway? Prove it!
- Feedback Please!