Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and its techniques are the main tool the Probation Service uses to address offending behaviour. Chui, in 2003, has written about how CBT (as a whole) works towards getting the individual (i.e. the offender) to achieve a sense of personal responsibility for their behaviour and its resultant consequences.
Elaborating on this further, as a practitioner myself, these consequences mean the impact the offenders behaviour has on not only the individuals themselves but also the victim and the community as a whole. By doing this, it is hoped that if a practitioner can get the offender to ‘see the person behind the crime’ then the offender is less likely to behave (reoffend) in this way again. So, the question now is how does CBT do this?
CBT is primarily concerned with how thoughts, feelings and behaviour interact and how these elements impact on us now. Therefore, by exploring this, and helping offenders to take ownership of their negative thoughts, feelings and behaviour, strategies can be explored to help the offender respond in more pro social ways. To examine this further, let’s say offender “Max” went into a public house and was stared at by a stranger whilst there. Max then had the thought: ” He wants a fight”, this made him feel hot and angry with the resultant behaviour being walking up to the stranger and punching him.
However, if Max was able here to recognise consciously what thoughts and feelings he was having, and that he needed to change something, then he might react differently. So, if he changed his thinking to: “Maybe he is not looking at me,” or “Maybe that person is drunk and does not know what they are doing” then this may enable them to feel less angry and the resultant behaviour would be to ignore the other person.
When considering CBT, the above method of consciously recognising thoughts and changing them is only one way in which practitioners in the Probation Service can help offenders take ownership and control of their behaviours, thoughts and feelings.