October 20, 2010

Is Good Lives only for sex offenders?

A reader asked:
How applicable is the Good Lives Model (book review HERE) to working with people who have transgressed in ways other than sex offending?

The theory was not developed for sex offenders in particular. It is being adopted for use with sex offenders under the premise that their patterns of desistance from crime are similar to those of other criminal offenders. Many types of rehabilitation programs are turning to the Good Lives Model and other positive psychology approaches. By way of illustration, here is a testimonial from a Canadian psychologist who uses it with men who have engaged in family violence:
We have been using the Good Lives Model (GLM) in a family violence program for men who batter for the past year. The framework allows us to maintain all the traditional processes one might typically see in an offender program. It also supports the use of a variety of strategies pulled from narrative therapy, solution focused therapy, zen psychology, biofeedback, cognitive behavioural, learning theory, etc. while maintaining a cohesive theoretical perspective.

The GLM approach supports a stronger focus on offender engagement. We find that the men are more able to see what their role is in therapy. We have been conducting exit interview with clients as they complete the program. It is interesting to hear how the values embedded in the program are translated into their narratives. I rarely heard this kind of ownership of change from men when we were teaching a relapse prevention-style group.

I found that shifting to the GLM from a purely cognitive-behavioral, relapse prevention, risk-needs-responsivity approach allowed me to align my understanding of what constitutes good therapy from the effective counselling literature (i.e., the therapeutic engagement of the client). At times I have found the strict manualized approaches to treatment to be more "psycho-educational" than therapeutic.

Our population is largely non-convicted, self-referred men where drop out rates are typically very high. People are finishing this program. Our outcome measures suggest clients experience an increase in self-monitoring, emotional self-regulation, and cognitive flexibility, with reductions in perceived levels of anger and aggression.

I did relapse-prevention sex offender programming for many years and continue to integrate those materials and strategies into the current curriculum. We just get to add a lot more and have the theoretical underpinning to back up our efforts.
Thanks to Ann Marie Dewhurst, Ph.D. of Edmonton for giving me permission to post this example of the Good Lives Model in action.


Unknown said...

There is really nothing new under the sun. All psychological therapies have one purpose, and one purpose only; to help people increase their capacity suffer and enjoy the truth. This is the essence of "normal" living. Thus, GLM is not a model, but a fine name for an old idea.

Uri Amit

FpsY said...

Hi Karen,

The problem I have with this, is that the men are self referred not mandated. They are therefore likely to be low risk offenders and according to the evidence unlikely to reoffend anyway. Low risk would indicated that the men are more resilient and more likely to possess many of the personaly strengths that the GLM is trying to achieve.

What do you think?

Bill Bell said...

My thanks again to you, Dr Franklin and to Dr Dewhurst. This is good to know. I hope you're right about the trends you mention in your review. Meanwhile, the current Canadian government is allocating lots more money for prisons on the basis of its decision to make offenders serve our their entire sentences.

Karen Franklin, Ph.D. said...


Interesting that you ask. At the ATSA convention I am attending this week, several of the workshops pertain to treatment of high-risk offenders mandated into treatment. It seems that whether someone is self referred is not critical to treatment success. A mandated prisoner can still be engaged in treatment, if the therapist is engaged, committed, sincere, warm, and empathetic and helps him see the utility to his own life. The outcome research suggests benefit accrues to high-risk, mandated offenders.

FpsY said...

Thanks Karen,

I'm still confused though, I realise moderate to high risk offenders are ammenable to treatment. In Australia offenders are assessed using the LSI-R. Resources and intensive management including treatment programs are delivered to moderate high risk offenders. Low risk offenders get low supervision, and in fact treatment of low risk can actually increase re-offending. Low risk from what I understand from the literature are offenders who already possess cognitive strengths, social supports etc. If the men in the family violence program have enough insight into their offending to self referr, then it seems plausable that they have considerable cognitive and other personal strengths. Unlike the men assessed as high risk who are lacking these skills. So the self referred men in the group may be getting some benefit from the treament but is reducing reoffending or just adding to the personal and social strengths they already possess.

Karen Franklin, Ph.D. said...

You make some interesting points. Dr. Dewhurst's program is given as an example of the use of the GLM model for treatment of issues other than sex offending (see the question to which it was addressed, at the top of the post). It's not meant an example of formal outcome research with the independent variable of reduced reoffending. Some such research with GLM-based programs does exist, I believe, but I do not have time to dig it up at the moment. As Uri pointed out, the positive psychology principles of GLM are those underlying all good therapy, so there is no reason to suspect it would NOT be effective to some degree with any group.

FpsY said...

Ah I understand, thank for taking the time to clarify that, I do appreciate it. I really enjoy reading your blog and I am learning a lot from it and alway look forward to the next installment.