An evaluation of strength-based approaches to the treatment of sex offenders: a review

Publication Date07 Aug 2017
AuthorWilliam L. Marshall,Liam E. Marshall,Mark E. Olver
SubjectHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Criminal psychology,Sociology,Sociology of crime & law,Deviant behaviour,Public policy & environmental management,Policing,Criminal justice
An evaluation of strength-based
approaches to the treatment of sex
offenders: a review
William L. Marshall, Liam E. Marshall and Mark E. Olver
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to note the basis for the emergence of strength-based approaches
(SBA) to the treatment of sex offenders and point to Tony Wards Good Lives Model (GLM) as the impetus for
these developments.
Design/methodology/approach Next, the authors outline the elements of the GLM and of other SBAs.
The features of various ways to evaluate treatment programs are discussed and this is followed by an
examination of the evidence bearing on the value of the GLM and other SBAs.
Findings The authors note that the effects of the GLM are limited to within treatment indices as, to date,
there are no long-term outcome evaluations of the model on reducing recidivism. Indeed, there appears to be
only one such study of an alternative SBA program.
Originality/value The authors conclude that additional outcome studies are needed to evaluate the utility
of the switch away from deficit-focused approaches to strength-based models of treatment.
Keywords Positive psychology, Good Lives Model, Sex offenders, Outcome evaluation, Therapy,
Strengths-based approach
Paper type Viewpoint
Seligman (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Seligman and Peterson, 2003) claimed that the
psychological treatment of all disorders has been, since the end of the Second World War,
focused on clientsdeficits. He called for a shift in focus that would also attend to clients
strengths. As a result of Seligmans advocacy, there has been a proliferation of so-called
strength-based approaches (SBAs). This trend has been part of the more general positive
psychology movement (Linley and Joseph, 2004; Snyder and Lopez, 2005). This paradigm shift
has recently been apparent in the treatment of sex offenders. The present paper will describe
these approaches to sex offender treatment and provide an evaluation of attempts to determine
their effectiveness. As we will show, the literature on the value of SBAs is quite limited.
What is actually meant by an SBA has various definitions (e.g. Padesky and Mooney, 2012;
Hammond, 2010), such as ignoring deficits and only focusing on the clients strengths and
attempting to build on then or by paying equal attention to strengths as is paid to deficits. For the
purpose of the current paper, a SBA is where the clients strengths are given equal emphasis in
treatment as are the clients areas of criminogenic need. In particular, to enhance motivation and
commitment to change, strengths are overrepresented in discussion early on in treatment and
then a more balanced approach is taken once a therapeutic alliance has been established. Early
on in treatment in particular, then, strengths are seen as any characteristic of or statements by
the client that are pro-change, such as statements of intention to change, self-esteem, or hope
for the future. At any time in treatment, strengths in a client are any prosocial or anti-criminogenic
characteristics or statements, such as prosocial attitudes, empathy, or risk awareness. Deficits
are those characteristics of or statements by the client of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that are
Received 18 April 2017
Revised 12 June 2017
Accepted 15 June 2017
William L. Marshall is based at
Rockwood Psychological
Services, Kingston, Canada.
Liam E. Marshall is a Research
Psychologist at the Waypoint
Centre for Mental Health Care,
Penetanguishene, Canada.
Mark E. Olver is a Professor at
the Department of Psychology,
University of Saskatchewan,
Saskatoon, Canada.
DOI 10.1108/JCP-04-2017-0021 VOL. 7 NO. 3 2017, pp. 221-228, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2009-3829
PAG E 22 1

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