Although support exists for the effectiveness of treatment for personality disordered offenders there is limited knowledge about the processes underlying the therapeutic change. The purpose of this paper is to explore the treatment experiences of six male psychopathic offenders who attended a social skills treatment component implemented within a high-secure personality disorder treatment service.
Interview transcripts were analysed by the lead researcher (first author) using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) who compared and contrasted findings to develop superordinate themes across the group. External auditing analysis was conducted by the second author.
Several themes were identified that may indicate the unique ways this client group experienced treatment. These related to the importance of “group cohesion” with treatment progression and shared learning experiences, the significance of “therapeutic alliance” with treatment providers and perceived effectiveness of treatment, and the conflict participants experienced when acquiring and applying skills from their engagement in treatment. Participants identified aspects of the treatment component that facilitated the effectiveness of treatment and were effective in meeting their needs and some that would benefit from improvement.
Positive group dynamics are important. Operational staff inclusion within the facilitation team is beneficial. Attentiveness to participants’ specific responsivity needs is required. Supporting skill application post-treatment is important.
These findings add to the evidence base in relation to factors that support personality disordered offenders’ engagement within treatment. Areas that validate treatment delivery are highlighted, as are suggestions for change to maximise treatment gain for psychopathic and personality disordered offenders.
Catherine Mullan, Darren Johnson, Jennifer Tomlinson
Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, 2018