Most correctional professionals agree that behavioral change starts with acquiring new skills, not insight. However, as an industry we have done a particularly poor job implementing this principle. Learned behaviors, like riding a bicycle or hitting a golf ball, take time and practice. Book or class learning do not help us adopt such learned behaviors, so why do we invest so much time and energy in having our offender population sit through yet another “anger management” class? We have often counted on psycho-educational classes to teach new skills – what our clients need are tools that help learn alternative behaviors and develop new habits through directed practice. Lack of information is rarely the problem – I am sure we all have a few clients who could practically teach the anger management classes they take, yet they still struggle with anger issues. Automatic, over-learned behaviors are usually the source of the problem, and thus must be the focus of how we develop and deliver skills training.
Directed Practice Law #1: Information does not translate to new behavioral learning.
Directed Practice Law #2: Offender and treatment provider usually view role playing and practice as boring and elementary, if not childish.
Directed Practice Law #3: Good behavioral treatment is boring.
Directed Practice Bottom Line: Behavioral training, practice and feedback leads to behavioral change. Practice makes permanent! Role playing various situations is the best way to accomplish this.